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Kendrick Lamar, Section.80

Kendrick Lamar moves differently than most rappers. He’s soft-spoken with a humble confidence that’s refreshing. He’s from Compton, but is hell-bent on giving that Los Angeles neighborhood a reputation far broader than the gang-centric one it’s earned since N.W.A. put gangsta rap on the map in the late 1980s. He dropped Section.80 over a holiday weekend (this past Saturday, July 2), for goodness sake.

Or, if you let him tell it, as he does on the gripping opener “Fuck Your Ethnicity,” “Don’t mistake me for no fuckin’ rapper/They sit backstage and hide behind them fuckin’ cameras/I mosh pit/Had a microphone and I tossed it/Had a brain, then I lost it.” One of Kendrick’s strengths is his honesty as it relates to his specific upbringing and surroundings, but here, he’s certainly lying. One thing Section.80 proves is that its author’s brain is neither lost nor useless, as he weaves together carefully constructed thoughts before spewing raps on each of the project’s 16 tracks, ensuring nothing is disposable or without purpose.

“Fuck Your Ethnicity” is an ideal intro for this body of work, an acceptance of all colors and creeds that sets the energy and content for the cohesive project. The other side of the album’s bookend is the J. Cole produced lead single “HiiiPower,” one of the finest tracks of the year. The atmospheric cut combines historical references with individual boasts and indictments on the rest of the game as Lamar looks to separate himself (“I won’t sugar coat it/You’ll die from diabetes if these other niggas wrote it”).

In between the two comes “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain),” a 2011 version of “Brenda’s Got a Baby.” A frighteningly vivid, goose bump-inducing tale of a teenage girl’s fight against the streets for her own survival, the tragic track comes to a head in the final 30 seconds, as Keisha is murdered and Kendrick admits, “My little sister 11, I looked her right in the face the day that I wrote this song/Sat her down and pressed play.” And it’s no coincidence that the TDE rhymer name drops the ‘Pac track in the first verse, either. “The Spiteful Chant” is a melodic sling shot launched at all detractors, featuring a fiery verse from ScHoolboy Q and Lamar vehemently rapping, “Everybody heard that I fuck with Dre and they wanna tell me I made it/Nigga, I ain’t make shit/If he gave me a handout I’ma take his wrist and break it!”

The stripped down, jazzy production of the 2011 XXL Freshman’s in-house team compliments the duality of Kendrick’s honest raps, but it’s hard not to imagine how the Dr. Dre protégé will benefit when his sound expands in the not so distant future. It will surely be a bit grander and more accessible to the masses—though that doesn’t seem something the wordsmith is losing sleep over in the meantime.

On “Ab-Soul’s Outro,” K. Dot encapsulates a slice of his essence: “You wonder how I could talk about money, hoes, clothes, God and history all in the same sentence.”

As Section.80 establishes, he’s able to do so with passion, focus, and sincerity. —Adam Fleischer

  • jimmmyjam

    this album is dope as hell.

  • GoGoMicFiend

    This album to me shows Kendrick’s development. I need to listen to it a few more times. It’s more consistent than the OD but I’m not sure if it’s better. It’ll take a few more listen’s before I decide.

    Aside from that, it is Kendrick so it’s better than almost anything out by a long shot. I think as far as the accessibility issue XXL has is BS. The standards dropped and KDot is bring it back up. He’s like the Wire to these CSI’s.

    • stoopkid

      omars comin yo

  • Soulsmith

    Man this is a XXL album fuck what you heard shyt is dope

    • thelonius

      ^^^cosign. I know ppl throw that “album of the year” title around too loosely these days, but I doubt we’re gonna hear anything better than #section80 this year. This was a dope, dope album. Everybody should cop it.

      • MATTYGEEEE

        ^^ Cosign

    • @johnny_HAMMO

      agreed! how this isnt xxl bothers me

    • Speak Easy

      ^^^ Triple extra super cosign.

      If this album was put out by an Kanye, Jay, or the like it would have been hailed as one of the best of the decade. I like that XXL is supporting Kendrick, but it is time to stand for something. I feel like XXL is waiting to see what happens commercially before saying anything “risky.” Kendrick is changing Hip Hop and music as a whole. Don’t wait for your favorite know it all to tell you it is OK to love KL. He is the TRUTH.

  • WTF

    WTF?! XXL FUK YOU!!! THAT IS ALL!! THIS IS NEAR-CLASSIC!

  • FUKDAT

    HOW DO YOU GIVE THE SAME RATING AS BIG SEANS ALBUM! ?WAT THE FUKKKK

    • Nick

      REAL TALK. This album is fucking CLASSIC. This is an album that just redefined what hip-hop is today. You see anybody doin it like Kendrick? FUCK NO. J. Cole & Kendrick are the future.

    • M@st@ M@ce

      True shit homie, this album is dope as fuck.

      • XXL Guy #7

        CO FUCKING SIGN!! This album is better than WTT, Finally Famous, Goblin, MBDTF, RED Album, and Hell the Sequel, in my humble opinion. Everyone buy it please

  • JChrome

    how can you put in the dr. dre line about breaking his wrists, and still label K.Dot as a ‘dr. dre protege’??
    clearly him and TDE are carving their own lane and they did this with or without dre’s one sentence complimenting him. get it right.

    • thinker

      Real talk, i think they could use less of the dre co-sign here and more of an explanation on why the fuck they gave it such a rating. you guys throw these XL ratings on to practically everybodys albums. L for the beats so it can match the XL rating? fuck outta here, the production and instrumentation was on point

  • jimmmyjam

    people obviously dont get how reviews work, they expect anything with above average lyricism to get xxl and anyting tht hit the billboard to get shat on its ridiculous. this got xl its what it deserved, ppl actin ike xxl are shittin on it, kendrick is still stratin, hes still got ways to go.

    • mac

      said it best bro

    • Doug

      You obviously don’t get that XXL doesn’t know how to distinguish ratings from one album to the next. Some albums that get XLs are not on #Section80′s level. This is an XXL album. And he doesn’t have a ways to go. What he is doing right now is what makes him who he is.

      • jimmmyjam

        this album aint a xxl, it has faults and aint as good as overly dedicated. and they do know how to review. they look at what purpose an artists wants his album to serve and base it on wether it was well done and accoplished in that fact. for instance big seans album wasnt some consious shit, he just wanted to have fun and experiment a little (and tht is okay, it doesnt make him fake or a sell out) thts is obvious with songs like wait for me and marvin gaye. he accomplished tht so he got xxl, same goes for kendrick. xxl are reserved for albums considered classics. long ass post!!

        • jimmmyjam

          look at all the albums xxl gave a top rating to. it was shit like mmlp, illmatic, the diary and all eyez on me

  • smuggler

    YO THIS ALBUM RIGHT HEAR IS DOPE AS FUCK. AS FOR PEOPLE SAYING THAT WE MIGHT NOT HEAR ANY THING BETTER THEN SECTION 80 THIS YEAR ON JULY 26 JAY ROCK DROPS HIS ALBUM FOLLOW ME HOME I HAVE A FEELING THIS ALBUM IS GOING 2 BE BANGING EVERYWHERE THE WEST COAST IS COMING BACK AND IN A VERY STRONG WAY.

  • http://www.splashjoy.com/ Isa of SplashJOY

    I’d say its a XXL

  • B. Emerson 909

    Most of the beats on Section 80 are better than the beats on Finally Famous..huge difference in lyrics too, Kendrick can rap circles around Big Sean.

  • Pacer

    Only thing going to beat this out of album of the year will probably be J.Cole.

    This album is crazy from start to finish. Production great from start to finish.

    You cant tell me you sat there & skipped a track, few albums (especially today) have me sitting through the whole album every time.

    IMO – this album deserves more than a XL. If you think otherwise then you’ve been caught sleepin!!!

  • http://www.justice.gov.za Ch*l*z

    Ppl must please ask 1st how album review works b4 they start beating around the bush.

    XXLmag got it on point this time…no arguements here!

  • grimM

    are u kidding me. Im a producer and ashamed that xxl gave this project a L on production when u guys gave curren$y’s album a XL. all curren$y beats sounded the exact same and a bit boring at times where as section 80 took risk on exploring a new sound from the jump and succeeded. feels like this Adam guy made up some bullshit just to keep the balance of the rating a “XL” if u ask me. smh

  • gluvnast

    XXLmag is a fool for considering this merely an XL! This is one of the best crafted albums in recent years, up there with Kanye’s last album. I wouldn’t be as upset had it not the fact they had the audacity to give the stellar production just a L! I honestly do not know if they really listened to the album of just skimmed through it. Everything in category deserved at least an XL but truly a XXL.

  • Bar

    I still check xxl on occasion but I doubt I will anymore. These people dont actually listen to or understand the music. I’m not arguing with the XL rating by any means cause for now, that’s what it is. But these people do anything and everything to give EVERY album an XL rating to try to satisfy every every fan in an attempt to sell more magazines. These beats arent an L. And how the hell is originality only an XL?! That just doesnt make sense to me, its the albums strongest point. The entire album tells a story of 80s babies, touches on the world’s ills AND established the HiiiPower movement. I dont think this Adam Fleischer character caught on to that or understands the irony of the songs. I mean, are Curren$y and Wiz Khalifa albums as original as this? i don’t get these people…

  • QB

    This album should have an XXL rating.. they just didn’t want to give it to him cuz he’s “new”…

  • Tremeal Bradford

    I’m not feeling the this article: “As he continues to build off his Dr. Dre consign…” That’s not true at all. Kendrick Lamar has not been building off Dr. Dre’s cosign. This man has been grinding for 7+ years honing his talents and finding himself through his music. Kendrick Lamar continues to build off his own life’s blessings, trials, and tribulations; and those that surround him–family, friends, and the rest of his community. Yes, Dr. Dre is one of his Blessings along the this journey, but in no way, shape or form is he his foundation from which he is bulding! The article’s abstract is bullshit.

    On another not, the album is amazing! As he tweeted, this album is not about him, but rather his surroundings–Section.80. It’s incredible how intuitive he is as an artist. He not only gives very explicit, REAL depictions from a young man’s perspective growing up in this realm he calls Section.80, but also the young woman’s perspective. He is sheer honesty and intelligence personified lyrically. Section.80 is a masterpiece for an entire generation! He could teach a class on Reaganomics at UCLA if he wanted to! lol Whether you identify primarily, secondarily, or not at all, Section.80 proves to have something for everyone! It’s called “The TRUTH!”

    I’ve watched this man’s talent grow since the begining. He’s like wine–time makes him even better! I wish him all the success in the world!

    • ShootaR’B

      Man I agree. They trippin sayin that.

  • Googoo24

    Oh, so because he didn’t have famous producers, he gets a lower beats rating? BS XXL. BS.

  • Briggs

    This is thee BEST album ofthe year so far hands down

  • ShootaR’B

    This Album is Dope. And I have all of his music. He is among my top 5 favorite MC’s of all time! Kendrick bro keep it coming! We all proud of you bro. Your music is good for the soul especially the young and strugglin. I gain my composure listenin to Kendrick Lamar and get inspired.
    Sincerely Thank you for that,
    Shoota

  • Anonymous

    can we get a Nittyville review?

  • MikePlease

    Album of the Year

  • Aaron

    Now i find this insanely disrespectful that XXL would even think of giving this the same rank as Dom Kennedy and just one rank above Lil B, quit fucking trying to please everybody and give shit what it diserves, Dom kennedy is fucking ass and you give him the same rank as this right here!?! by no means is Section .80 perfect they XXL definately needs to step it up when it comes to givving an XL rating

  • Listen

    Ight I gotta say it is an excellent album, but XL is the deserved grade here… As written in a comment below, albums that got XXL were stuff like Nas’s Illmatic, Hov’s Reasonable Doubt, Mobb Deep’s Infamous or Wu’s 36 Chambers… I know they did give some XXL to artists or albums that maybe didn’t deserve such a rating… But to put this shit in the same group as the actual rap CLASSICS listed here is completely dillusional… But true that Kendrick may be an artist to actually make a hip hip classic in the future, still high props to him on this one

  • Jaysonmanman

    Glad this album is out. Pure heart and substance, wasnt expecting that!!!# GUDSH!T…

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  • unclesam

    The production is easily XXL. Lyrically, I’d give it an XL and when it comes to originality an XXL is very viable. How many rappers have made songs like Fuck Your Ethnicity, HiiiPower, Poe Man’s Dream, Keisha’s & Tammy’s Song, No Make Up and Ab Soul’s Outro?

  • chiefgreen

    i took me four listens to come to this. he talks about the past, he talks about the present. this album is the future. plus i cant get that pimp c sample out my head. I CAN’T FUCK WIT YALL

  • SHAWN B

    I have been a real fan of hip hop music for nearly 18 yrs now…my hip hop palate was shaped and molded by the sounds of ATCQ, De La, Public Enemy, Black Moon, Brand Nubian, Hieroglypics, Special Ed, NWA, Snoop and the list goes on and on…I admit I can be overly critical on new artists nowadays…And Ive grown so sick of fans putting the label of “The Future of Hip Hop” on artists that turned out to be undeserving…I have to say that with Kendrick, the title fits…And more than ever before, I am confident that it will stick…I honestly think this kid could thrive with any production team…His current squad has done him justice on Section 80…An XL rating for this album is laughable…It is pure and simple a funk CLASSIC album…Trust me, that’s not a word I use often…This kid is the real deal…Period…Limitless talent…Limitless…

    • SHAWN B

      not funk classic…fukn classic

  • D-Lloyd

    FUCK XXL!!!!! THIS SHIT IS CLASSIC!!!!!!

  • G09

    Everyone saying its XXL is biased as fuck, this album great but it isnt an XXL, aint nothin wrong with the rating

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  • JM

    all i would say is that Big Sean’s cd is not the same caliber as Kendrick Lamar. It was not commercially successful enough to call a fun having radio cd, but not lyrical enough to call intricate. Nothing against Sean i think he is one of the best lyrical/punch line new rappers, but Section 80 provides an far more as an album then FF. Keishas song is like wow. Kendrick Lamar raps better than anyone ive heard in a long time. he stays on topic and raps consistently, fluently speaking on real issues. food for thought.

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  • Warren Paea

    see what happens when you only give yourself 4 days to review this. this is a XXL! classic!

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  • hellno

    To address all these people saying it should be XXL, they are wrong. It is an incredible album but only 6 or 7 albums are xxl and they are albums like illmatic, all eyez, mmlp etc. What we really need is a larger rating system with more choices. This should not be at the XXL level, but it is millions of times better than big sean’s finally famous, also an xl. XXL just needs to give out XLs less generously and give things like TRUreligion, Take Care and Finally Famous lower ratings.

    • tp

      Section 80 is better than illmatic. I can say that w/ out hesitation

      • D-HOLLA!

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That’s an ignorant ass statement, but music is subjective so I guess ur entitled to your wrong opinion.

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  • TP

    You guys need to reexamine your review now that good kid dropped. section 80 has an entire new meaning. Hes the same lyricist from OD to 80 to good kid, maad city