Kendrick Lamar – Section 80

written by: July 26, 2011
Release Date: July 2nd, 2011


Kendrick Lamar’s Compton, Cal. roots shine through on his most recent album, but not in the way one would expect. Eschewing the gangsta rap archetype, and having little in common with the G-funk stylings of Dr. Dre, Lamar has crafted an album that pulls from a myriad of influences. Section 80 sees the 24-year-old Lamar offer up his strongest album to date, and finally begin to deliver on the promise of his early work.

Opening with “Fuck Your Ethnicity,” Lamar shows he is willing to break down barriers. The track’s production is almost too clean in spots, taking away from his slightly acerbic flow and ravenous delivery. Despite this, Lamar’s ability to meld disparate styles is quite impressive. While a good chunk of Section 80 does reference commercially successful genre staples, when Lamar moves beyond that is when the album truly shines.

“Ronald Reagan Era” not only features a guest spot from the RZA, but it boasts a downtrodden feel that wouldn’t be out of place on an alt-country record. Pairing this with a baritone hook, the track builds to some of Lamar’s most impressive verses. Producer Tae Beast allows Lamar to explore with his phrasing, and it sees Lamar crafting lengthy verses that are consistent throughout.

Section 80 features one more production credit from Tae Beast, and it is equally as impressive. “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)” brings back a slower tempo that brings Lamar’s lyrics to the forefront. An infectious hook courtesy of Ashtro Bot paints a picture of “Fancy girls on Long Beach Boulevard,” and brings in images of the early-‘90s Southern California hip-hop scene without merely aping its spirit.

The biggest problems with Section 80 are ones that are becoming incredibly commonplace in the hip-hop world. The album is overall a success, but at an hour long it begins to drag.

If Section 80 cut three or four songs from its tracklist – specifically form it’s weaker first hald – it could very easily prove to be one of the year’s best. Unfortunately, with a few misses included, it is bloated and spottier than it should be.

A secondary issue is that Lamar’s age is leading him down two different paths. “Hol’ Up” sees him discuss his ambition to join the mile-high club in a ineloquent manner, and then a few tracks later he’s projecting feminist ideology and championing inner beauty on “No Make-Up (Her Vice).” It’s not to say these two things can’t coexist, but placing juvenile desires next to adult understanding feels like Lamar is at a crossroads, either grow up or pander to Odd Future’s crowd – a group he mentions on closer “HiiiPoWer.”

Lamar has taken a step forward, but Section 80 is not without its faults. If Lamar finds some cohesion in his lyrical content, and cuts down the length of his albums, he will easily become one of the scene’s dominant forces. He’s got some growing to do, but for a 24-year-old, he’s already off to a great start.

Kendrick Lamar Section 80 Tracklist:

  1. “Fuck Your Ethnicity”
  2. “Hol’ Up”
  3. “A.D.H.D.”
  4. “No Make-Up (Her Vice)”
  5. “Tammy’s Song (Her Evils)”
  6. “Chapter Six”
  7. “Ronald Reagan Era”
  8. “Poe Mans Dreams (His Vice)”
  9. “The Spiteful Chant”
  10. “Chapter Ten”
  11. “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)”
  12. “Rigamortus”
  13. “Kush & Corinthians”
  14. “Blow My High (Members Only)”
  15. “Ab-Soul’s Outro”
  16. “HiiiPoWer”