I first heard of Kendrick Lamar in 2008, my first year at the University. I was still a teenager at the time mastering the rudiments of Poetry. Writing, Memorizing and Reinventing lines from rappers like Eminem, Lil Wayne, Jay Z and African Poets like Kwesi Brew, Gabriel Okara, Lenrie Peters and Christopher Okigbo. A young and inquisitive boy, I fell in love with Poetry the first time I opened the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes. I still recall, it was like seven large light bulbs were lit in my teenage head. The mental feeling was orgasmic and ever since I have been coming back for more. It was the combination of the subject matter, the punchlines(winks) and the beautiful landscape of that philosophical biblical book that drew me to Rhythmically Applied Poetry, RAP. I found true love.
My roommate, Charles, a pre-degree student, had a friend, Bayo, a tiny guy, with a good knowledge of Rap. Not the Nigerian Rap of M.I, Modenine, and Ruggedman, which was gaining credence at the time but the American Rap Music of Snoop, Jay Z, BOB, Lil Wayne, Nikki Minaj, Eminem, NWA, Pun and Nas. He could explain rap lines for days. I was scrolling through the Albums Folder on his Laptop one faithful day when I stumbled on an Album named: Section 80. I double clicked and played a track ‘HiiiPower’. The next voice I heard, the words that accompanied the voice, the beats, the message, were like water to a dehydrated man in the desert. I never knew at the time they were rappers who rapped with such honesty and truth. Immediately, I transfered the file to my Android phone.
HiiiPower was my introduction to the Preacher, who though preaches salvation, doesn’t claim to have attained sinlessness. I continued on the Album. When I listened to another track ‘Keisha’s Song’ I was almost in tears. It wasn’t because I have not seen the story play around me but because I have never seen anyone logically, emotionally and poetically capture these everyday occurrences in such a way they elicit feelings and conditions the act themselves couldn’t afford me anymore. It was the story of a girl, Keisha, exploited by her guardian. She went into prostitution and died at the age of seventeen in the act. He rapped:
“And Lord knows she’s beautiful
Lord knows the usuals, leaving her body sore
She take the little change she make to fix her nail cuticles
Lipstick is suitable to make you fiend for more
She play Mr. Shakur, that’s her favorite rapper
Bumping “Brenda’s Got a Baby” while a pervert yelling at her
And she capture features of a woman, but only 17″
A beautiful girl caught up by the system, a system she detests but have to immerse herself in it just to succeed. He ended the song with the lines:
“And in her heart she hate it there but in her mind, she made it where
Nothing really matters, still she hit the back seat
And caught a knife inside the bladder, left for dead, raped in the street
I had become so accustomed to the negative experiences around that any shift from them to normalcy becomes abnormal. Kendrick Lamar, or as he was formerly called, K.Dot, restored me to humanity at that moment of my life. He became my tour guide to the world of rap music. His Albums: GKMC, TPAB, Untitled Unmastered, Damn., I don’t have any regret.
I returned to Bayo, my new ally, to ask for more. I had just lost my mum, sunk in depression, my life at that point needed more of whatever K.Dot had to offer. Like nature knew I needed a stimulant and gave me the perfect one, a stone that grew from the rugged Concrete of Compton–Kendrick Lamar. I understood what Eminem meant when in Sing For The Moment he rapped”…music alters moods and talks to you”. I was living the life. I requested his other tapes from Bayo but that was all of him he’s got. Bayo didn’t seem to be fascinated by the young K.Dot either. Yes, he’s good but let me rock Young Money for now–I could read from his reaction. Like all true rap heads he was happy that I loved the material I got from him but doesn’t think K.Dot is better than Young Money and wouldn’t condemn a material he got a friend either. I got the other mixtapes from the internet.
The spirituality of Kendrick Lamar in Songs like Let Me Be, No Make Up and later Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst and The Blacker The Berry exposed the meaning of being human and why we should all be what the rapper Talib Kweli called Prisoner of Conscious. He doesn’t have to deny sinlessness in himself or from black people to be a voice. He also doesn’t have to promote the sinfulness of black people. He doesn’t have to pretend there’s no oppression of black people to be a voice. He also doesn’t have to be a voice only against the oppression of black people by other people. To Kendrick, every evil is evil. The preacher have mastered the art of truthful storytelling. He doesn’t glorify violence or violent himself. While he occasionally uses lewd words in his rap lyrics, the meaning he conveys with them is usually introspective.
Today, my friend Bayo rocks his songs. He wasn’t a believer in 2008 but the other projects from Kendrick has made him a believer. I discovered similar rappers like Immortal Technique, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, Ab-Soul and Killah Priest later. Kendrick Lamar was my spark in the journey of Conscious Poetry and Living. He made what we call mainstream rap fashionable again. I am also a great admirer of Jermaine Cole but I discovered and fell in love with Kendrick’s sound first. We need more of them around.
It was this meeting with K.Dot that widened my poetic material and humanism. In the past, in my poems and messages, I stopped at describing the nature of denatured and natural things but I now go a step further in suggesting, directly and indirectly, how they ought look if we must survive as a race in this planet. His lessons contributed immensely in my journey to becoming a better person. If we must have real peace and not a camouflage, we need a lot of him in our music menu. We have evolved in so many unthinkable ways but it seems the evolution of our selves into better beings, beings enjoying inner peace, beings with interest and desire for love, have refused to follow up. We have built entertainment gadgets of unthinkable reach but have failed to replicate the same thing in our minds and bodies. Listening to Kendrick Lamar was the antidote to my fading sense of empathy. We should all listen to this human being.