Kendrick Lamar (born June 17, 1987 in Compton, California; real name Kendrick Lamar Duckworth), also known by his pseudonyms “K.Dot”, “Cornrow Kenny” and “Kung Fu Kenny”, is an American rapper and songwriter.
Kendrick Lamar’s parents moved to Compton before he was born, as his father Kenny Duckworth wanted to escape his past with the notorious street gang Gangster Disciples in Chicago. Although his mother found a job at McDonald’s and his father worked at KFC, the couple still found it difficult to settle into their new surroundings. Lamar spent his childhood in precarious circumstances; as a young boy, he witnessed his father continue to work “on the street” to provide for the small family, and some of his maternal uncles were part of the Compton Crips. The neighborhood in which he grew up, like all of Compton, was characterized by gang violence. Thus, some of his friends belonged to both the Bloods and the rival Crips. He himself never became a member of a gang.
At the age of nine, Lamar watched the video recording of California Love, a track by Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur, which led him to become more involved in rap. At Centennial High School, which Lamar attended, years earlier was also André Romell Young – a.k.a. Dr. Dre, with whom he would later collaborate several times.
In 2009, he joined forces with fellow rappers and friends Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul to form the hip-hop group Black Hippy, all of whom were signed to the Top Dawg Entertainment label but did not record an album for the time being.
He first came to the scene’s attention after the release of the mixtape Overly Dedicated in 2010. In 2011, his album Section.80, released exclusively on iTunes, became one of the most successful hip-hop albums of the year. He has collaborated with Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Emeli Sandé, Wiz Khalifa, Eminem, The Game, Drake, Busta Rhymes, Lady Gaga, SZA, and Tech N9ne, among others.
On October 22, 2012, his second studio album Good Kid, M.a.a.d. City was released. It features production from Dr. Dre, Just Blaze, Pharrell Williams, Hit-Boy, Scoop DeVille and T-Minus, among others. The album reached #2 in the U.S. and also charted internationally. It received many positive reviews and was widely called a masterpiece. At the 2014 Grammy Awards, Lamar received a total of 7 nominations.
After a long break without any releases of his own, the single i was released in September 2014. It was only averagely successful in the U.S., but internationally it was Lamar’s biggest success to date, with Top 40 placements in the U.K., New Zealand, and Denmark, among others. At the 2015 Grammy Awards, he received the award for Best Rap Performance of the Year for it. His third album, To Pimp a Butterfly, was released on March 16, 2015, a week ahead of schedule. It received overwhelming acclaim, specifically for its socially conscious lyrics about issues such as racism, police violence, depression, and self-love. Lamar himself was hailed as a poet. At the 2016 Grammy Awards, he received a total of four awards: for Best Collaboration – Rap/Vocal of the Year, Best Rap Performance of the Year, Best Rap Album, and Best Rap Song of the Year. He was nominated in a total of eleven different categories.
On March 23, 2017, he released the song The Heart Part 4 (exclusively on Apple Music for now), announcing his new album. A week later, he released Humble, the first single from his upcoming album, whose music video reached 30 million views after just one week. Humble was Lamar’s first number one hit in the U.S., making it his most successful single to date. On April 14, 2017, Lamar released his fourth studio album Damn. Once again, Lamar earned many positive reviews. Thus, the album, like its predecessors, appeared at the top, or at least in the top 5, of numerous best-of lists for the year. On July 13, it was announced that Damn. Reached double platinum in the U.S., marking Kendrick Lamar’s biggest commercial success to date. At the 2018 Grammy Awards, he won all four awards in the rap division with the album and the songs Humble and Loyalty included on it, as well as a fifth Grammy for the video for Humble.
In 2017, he launched his own footwear collection in collaboration with Reebok.
Along with Anthony Tiffith, Lamar produced Black Panther: The Album, the soundtrack for the Marvel Studios-produced science fiction action film Black Panther, which was released in theaters in 2018. The songs All the Stars, King’s Dead, and Pray for Me were also released as singles. The album entered the Billboard charts at #1 and won Best Soundtrack at the 2018 American Music Awards, and further nominations of the album and the song All the Stars, respectively, for a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, and various Grammys, among others, followed.
In 2018, Lamar became the first rapper to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his album Damn because, according to the judges, the album offered “haunting snapshots that capture the complexity of modern African-American life.” That same year, he was appointed to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which annually awards the Oscars. In 2019, he contributed vocals to Westbam’s album The Risky Sets. Lamar was the first rapper to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music.