Kendrick Lamar Duckworth
Emcees

Kendrick Lamar Duckworth

Born on June 17, 1987, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth was born in Compton, California to parents Paula Oliver and Kenny Duckworth.[1] Kenny’s affiliation with Chicago street gang the Gangster Disciples led Paula to convince him to relocate to California with her, taking only $500 and two black garbage bags.[2]  Initially heading to San Bernardino, California by train, the couple decided to move to Compton where Kendrick’s aunt, Tina, helped them get on their feet.[3]

Making just enough to survive on welfare and food stamps, Paula made a living as a hairdresser while Kenny worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken and allegedly dabbled in illegal activity.[4] Described as a loner by his mother, Kendrick was an only child until the age of 7 years old before becoming a sibling to a sister and two brothers.[5] Long before his revered career began, he witnessed Dr. Dre and 2pac film the “California Love” video at the Compton Swap Meet with his father.[6]

Though Kendrick was surrounded by the temptations of L.A. street life, he dreamt of being an NBA player until his seventh grade English teacher, Mr. Inge, introduced him to the intricacies of poetry.[7] He feverishly immersed himself in writing stories, poems, and lyrics and thrived as a straight-A student.[8] Though he attended Centennial High School and thought about attending college, he decided to set his sights solely on his artistry.[9][10]

As an up-and-coming rapper, he began his career under the moniker of K. Dot in the 2000s.[11] At the age of 16, he caught the attention of record label Top Dawg Entertainment after releasing his debut mixtape, The Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year.[12] His 2007 collaborative mixtape with Jay Rock entitled No Sleep ‘Til NYC led him to begin rapping under his own government name.[13] Also a member of rap collective Black Hippy, he frequently collaborated with fellow members Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, and ScHoolboy Q.[14]

Kendrick’s first commercial release was his 2010 mixtape entitled Overly Dedicated, and he was featured as a member of XXL Magazine’s 2011 Freshman Class.[15] His subsequent project, Section.80, was lauded by veteran hip-hop stars including Snoop, The Game, and Dr. Dre who passed him the proverbial West Coast torch later that same year.[16][17] Shortly thereafter, Dre signed him to his Interscope/Aftermath label where Kendrick released his major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012).[18][19] The project has remained on the Billboard 200 for over eight years, making it the longest-charting hip-hop studio album in history.[20]

In 2015, he released his politically charged LP, To Pimp a Butterfly, featuring the likes of funk pioneer George Clinton, Snoop Dogg, and Thundercat.[21] Considered a masterwork centric on race relations and social inequality, the full-length debuted at No. 1 and received a Grammy for Best Rap Album.[22] He also took home trophies for Best Rap Performance (“Alright”), Best Rap Song (“Alright”), and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (“These Walls”).[23]

His album untitled, unmastered (2016) was a collection of unreleased demos and B-sides that also topped the charts.[24]2017 saw the release of his fourth studio album DAMN. featuring the likes of U2 and Rihanna and boasted five Grammy wins including Rap Album of the Year.[25] That April, the project also garnered a Pulitzer Prize for Music, marking the first time the judges recognized a work outside of classical and jazz genres.[26]

The following year, he produced and curated the movie soundtrack Black Panther: The Album with Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith for the Ryan Coogler-directed Marvel film. [27] It spawned the three singles “King’s Dead” (with Jay Rock and Future), “All the Stars” (with SZA), and “Pray for Me” (with The Weeknd), which eventually achieved Top 10 status.[28] He later appeared on his cousin Baby Keem’s single “Family Ties,” which took home a 2022 Grammy for Best Rap Performance.[29] [30]

After a five-year hiatus, he released his last album with Top Dawg Entertainment, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, in May of 2022.[31]


[1] https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/the-trials-of-kendrick-lamar-33057/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://www.allmusic.com/artist/kendrick-lamar-mn0002709646/biography?1657318221389

[9] https://www.complex.com/pigeons-and-planes/2016/02/kendrick-lamar-high-school-principal

[10] Ibid.

[11] https://hiphopdx.com/news/id.15501/title.kendrick-lamar-talks-name-change-growing-up-in-compton

[12] https://www.allmusic.com/artist/kendrick-lamar-mn0002709646/biography?1657318221389

[13] Ibid.

[14] https://www.okayplayer.com/news/kendrick-lamar-explains-black-hippy-video.html

[15]  https://www.allmusic.com/artist/kendrick-lamar-mn0002709646/biography?1657318221389

[16] Ibid.

[17] https://youtu.be/tUsPbtg8ydc

[18] https://www.complex.com/pigeons-and-planes/2012/03/kendrick-lamar-signs-with-interscope-aftermath#:~:text=Dre%20by%20inking%20his%20name,him%20started%2C%20Top%20Dawg%20Entertainment.

[19] https://www.spin.com/2012/10/kendrick-lamar-good-kid-maad-city-interscopeaftermath/

[20] https://www.revolt.tv/article/2021-06-17/51151/kendrick-lamars-good-kid-m-a-a-d-city-spends-over-eight-years-on-billboard-200/

[21] https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-kendrick-album-20150317-story.html

[22] ​​https://www.billboard.com/pro/kendrick-lamar-first-no-1-album-ever-with-pimp-in-title/#:~:text=First%20Ever%20No.-,1%20Album%20With%20’Pimp’%20In%20Its%20Title,the%2059%2Dyear%20old%20tally.

[23] https://www.grammy.com/artists/kendrick-lamar/17949

[24] https://www.billboard.com/pro/kendrick-lamar-untitled-album-no-1-billboard-200/

[25] https://www.grammy.com/artists/kendrick-lamar/17949

[26] https://www.pulitzer.org/winners/kendrick-lamar

[27] https://www.npr.org/sections/allsongs/2018/02/21/587334273/black-panther-the-album-is-kendrick-lamar-s-parallel-pan-african-universe

[28] https://www.allmusic.com/artist/kendrick-lamar-mn0002709646/biography?1657318221389

[29] https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/news/musicnews/kendrick-lamar-baby-keem-family-ties-collab-cousin-video/13517340

[30] https://www.grammy.com/artists/kendrick-lamar/17949

[31] https://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2022/05/kendrick-lamar-new-album-mr-morale

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