Note: This article was written a ways back, but right before I was ready to send it off I came down with some of the worst strep throat I’ve ever had. 103 degrees type shit. So anyways, to my understanding some of this, mainly in regards to the free vs. for pay version, may no longer be accurate.
When I first heard The Kendrick Lamar EP, it brought me a revival of faith in hip-hop like I had not experienced in years. His flow was so complex, and his content was so genuine, progressive, thoughtful and full of insight, that it more than satiated my intellectual desires as someone who lives music all day everyday. Yet to balance things out, Kendrick was clearly someone who was hood, and didn’t blatantly criticize the way people get it in streets. I’ve always thought that this balance was way too rare in rap. It always seems to be that an MC has to be either a super thug, the pimp of all pimps, a revolutionary, or a snobby brainiac, with little in between. Yet The Kendrick Lamar EP perfectly seemed to depict a multidimensional man, who has gone through a lot of formative life experiences. Then to think that this all came from a rapper who I had never heard mentioned once (I didn’t realize he used to be K Dot upon the first couple listens), gave me some humility and hope. I realized that no, I don not know about every dope MC in existence. And that yes, there is a new generation of MC’s who make the type of music that I want to hear rather than what suburban teenagers want to listen to. So it goes without saying that that EP quickly sent Mr. Lamar to the top of my list of artists of whom I was excited to see and hear progress.
Obviously I was thrilled to hear that he was coming out with a new project. I even went as far to buy it off of itunes, even though it was available for free download as well, and I loathe purchasing MP3’s. I appreciate Kendrick’s music enough that I really wanted to support him, and for less than I pay for lunch on some days it seemed like the right and easy thing to do. Yet before I get to mention any of the music, as a consumer and a fan I must say that I feel like Kendrick Lamar has done me wrong. When you offer a product for purchase and simultaneously for free download, if someone is going out of their way to give you their hard earned money rather than just get it for free, at the absolute very least they should receive everything given to those who chose to simply download that product. In theory, it should actually be the other way around; they should get more than those who took advantage of the free download. Yet in this case it was the exact opposite. Most importantly, the free version offers 3 songs that the for pay version does not. And on a smaller scale, the free version offers a secondary image with production credits and contact info, while the itunes version does not. This may seem minor to many, but to me this was a disgrace. It’s almost like asking people to not buy it, and laughing at them if they do. If I’m going to take the time and risk to bust out my credit card and send that information through the ultra sketchy internet to make a purchase, why should I have to do more to get all of the intended content that comes with that product? It just seems stupid and poorly handled.
Now that I’m done with that bitch session, I strongly urge you to download the project, FOR FREE, here.
Overall this project is on a much more dark, depressed, and somber tip than The Kendrick Lamar EP. Yet when (O)verly (D)edicated is good, it is far and beyond what most other hip-hop artists have to offer. On the other side of the coin, when it is average, it’s not very memorable. Lets start with the successes. Content wise, Kendrick continues to bring that balance and honesty that allows him to stand out from his peers, all the while continuing to make his flow more precise and complex. “The Heart Part 2”, which features Dash Snow and was produced by Roots (REF), is a great example of this. I’ll let the music speak for itself, but you can’t tell me that by the end of this track he didn’t just black out and fucking GO OFF on the instrumental. Str8 bodied. Same goes for “Ignorance Is Bliss”, which is produced by Willie B. The flow is impeccable and the content is exactly what Kendrick does best. He typifies how shit goes down in the hood while also explaining his personal life in contrast.
Yet if I had to decide between my two favorite tracks it’s between “R.O.T.C.” ft. BJ The Kid and produced by Jairus “J-Mo” Mozee and “Cut You Off (To Grow Closer)” produced by TaeBeast. “R.O.T.C.” is one intense verse about the choices many have to make on a daily basis. Do you grind out life and do things the right and legitimate way, or do you take penitentiary chances to get some serious bread? And if you stay away from a life of crime, how do you deal with the fact that society doesn’t seem to want to reward you for making that decision? It’s some real shit delivered with unmistakable passion. While “Cut You Off (To Grow Closer)” is probably the track that deals with the most universal subject matter on the entire project. Everyone has spent time with someone that you truly care about, but always seems to be bringing you down in one way or another. It’s never easy, but sometimes you just need a break from that shit. And in this track Kendrick expresses those feelings through rhyme in a more clear, understandable and relatable manner than probably if you were to just have a conversation with somebody about it. This is the type of song that I expect that I will listen to for years and still find that it has an equal impact as when I first heard it.