Third times the charm? Not for Kendrick Lamar, apparently.
The eleven-time grammy winner was robbed yet again of the album of the year award at the 60th annual Grammy Awards on Jan. 28. As his critically acclaimed album DAMN. lost to Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic.
Hollywood got it wrong.
Lamar’s debut album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City lost to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories in 2014 and his 2015 hit album To Pimp a Butterfly lost to Taylor Swift’s 1989 at the 2016 Grammys.
What does Lamar have to do to win the award he deserves?
He addresses politics, black oppression, depression and so many more topics. He does it all while telling a story and drawing a picture with his lyrics.
Lamar tackles issues many rappers, and artists in general, tend to steer away from.
Even former U.S. president Barack Obama openly praised TPAB and said his favourite song from the album was “How much a Dollar Cost?” This still wasn’t enough to sway voters away from their favourite country girl, Taylor Swift.
The worst part about this Grammy robbery? DAMN. is arguably the 30-year-old’s best work yet.
Yes, 24K Magic is a good album, had high sales and catchy songs with a lot of radio play, such as “24K Magic”, “That’s What I Like,” “Finesse,” and “Versace on the Floor”.
This has been a common theme of award-winning albums in recent years, catchy songs, without much personal substance, which appeal to the younger generations.
But this isn’t album of the year material.
Album of the Year as defined by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is to “honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales, chart position, or critical reception.”
“DAMN.” has it all. Politics, oppression, love, lust and personal journey all leading Lamar to proclaim himself as the best rapper in the industry. Two songs off the album (“LOYALTY.” ft. Rihanna and “LOVE.” ft. Zacari) are even getting radio play, which seems to be a huge influence on voters for some reason.
A song to pinpoint is the song “FEAR.” and this is because Lamar himself has said it’s the best song he’s wrote, so it does the album the justice it deserves.
In the song, Lamar explores three stages of fear: when he was 7, 17 and 27, respectively.
In the first verse, Lamar recounts his life as a seven-year-old. His mother was strict and threatened to beat him as a way of keeping him in line, which caused him to fear her.
A line from the first verse is, “that homework better be finished, I beat yo ass. Your teachers better not be bitchin’ ‘bout you in class.”
This seemed to help him as he was a straight-A student and he has said school combined with personal experience inspired him to start writing lyrics.
The second verse, he recounts his fear of dying at the age of 17. A 2004 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found the leading cause of death for black males between the age of 15-19 was homicide at 45.3 per cent.
So if Lamar had died at 17, there was a high chance of it being homicide.
Verses three and four discuss his fear at age 27, losing the life he had built for himself. By 27, Lamar had released three studio albums, had accumulated over $30 million in career earnings and become a leader of the rap industry.
But despite all of his success, he is still scared. “At 27 my biggest fear was losin’ it all.”
He’s afraid of losing his creativity, he’s afraid of going broke, he’s afraid of his fans judging him when he goes through hard times.
“Wonder if I’m livin’ through fear of livin’ through rap.” Lamar wonders if he’s still alive because of his music or his fear of all he’s mentioned: fears which keep him frugal and anti-social.
Lamar connects real life situations with his music. He opens up to his emotions, his fears and his success: all to inspire.
His mission is to inspire the people in his hometown of Compton, California. Compton is known for its gangs and high crime rates. According to city-data.com, in 2016 the city witnessed 643.3 violent crimes per 100,000, well above the U.S average of 216 per 100,000.
“I don’t do it for the ‘Gram i do it for Compton” he proclaims on “ELEMENT.”
He isn’t concerned with influencing those who follow him on Instagram or social media, but rather he wants to use his fame and fortune to improve the lives of those in his city.
He was recognized for his work in the community by Senator Isadore Hall III, being named the California state senate’s 35th District’s generational icon in 2015.
Hall said Lamar’s donations to music, sports and after-school programs totals in the “hundreds of thousands.”
Lamar is a voice for a generation of children often misunderstood and forgotten
“Mr. Lamar has not only given voice to a new generation of of urban youth, he is demonstrating the best of what it means to work hard, do well, and give back to his community,” said Hall during his speech to the Senate.
Now it’s time for voters to recognize the musical and lyrical excellence of Kendrick Lamar the way the rest of the music industry and its fans have.