Results for Kendrick Lamar

interviews

Ernie Isley

Few groups can claim the sustained success of The Isley Brothers, in no small part due to the contributions of our guest Ernie Isley. The Isley Brothers formed in the 1950s as a doo-wop vocal group in Cincinatti, scoring huge hits with the wedding staples "Shout" and "Twist and Shout." They managed to survive the British Invasion, assisted by the incredible playing of their young guitarist Jimi Hendrix. With the addition of two more brothers, Ernie and Marvin, the band started to branch out into funk, soul, psychedelia, rock, and disco. It's this willingness to defy categorization that's led to the Isleys' longevity – the band scored the rare feat of charting in six consecutive decades.

Ernie Isley picked up where Hendrix left off on guitar, creating an unmistakeable tone featured on hits like "That Lady" and "Summer Breeze." But his contributions as a songwriter were just as vital, including a pair of sociallly conscious anthems in 1975: "Harvest for the World" and "Fight the Power," which Ernie penned in the shower before a trip to Disneyland. The Isleys' influence continues to be heard today in the hip-hop realm. Artists from Ice Cube to Notorious B.I.G. to Kendrick Lamar have crafted iconic songs from Isley Brothers samples. The band is now being honored with a massive boxset called The RCA Victor & T-Neck Album Masters (1959-1983), and even that just scratches the surface of the Isleys' long career.

Go to episode 509
specials

Revisiting 1991

1991

Though it seems like just yesterday for many, it's been 25 years since 1991. Along with 1964, '67 and '76, 1991 was a landmark year for music. You can hear its influence everywhere from neo-grunge band Bully to Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar. While Bryan Adams and Garth Brooks topped the charts, there are even more musicians that made groundbreaking strides back in '91. For Jim and Greg, 1991 was all about:

  • Nirvana and the birth of grunge
  • My Bloody Valentine and the growth of shoegaze
  • Lollapalooza and the rise of the Alternative Nation
  • N.W.A. and the reign of gangsta rap
  • Massive Attack and the birth of trip-hop
Go to episode 538
reviews
good kid, m.A.A.d cityGood Kid, M.A.A.D. City available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City

At 25, Kendrick Lamaris shouldering some pretty heavy expectations for his major label debut, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. The Compton rapper caught the attention of Dr. Dre and rap tastemakers with his independent debut Section.80. Does Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City live up to all the hype? Jim acknowledges Kendrick's skill as a lyricist - he says his rhymes are almost novelistic - and he understands he is taking on characters in his songs. However he's troubled by the gangsta clichés. No amount of self-awareness, Jim says, makes it OK to indulge in 50 Cent-style misogyny. Jim gives Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City a Trash It rating. Greg couldn‘t disagree more. He thinks Lamar has yet to meet the rap cliché he couldn’t upend. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is wrestling with Compton's legacy in a way that eludes sound bites and lyrics-quoting. Greg says it's a Buy It record that requires close listening.

JimGreg
Go to episode 362
To Pimp a ButterflyTo Pimp a Butterfly available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly

In terms of combined critical and commercial success, Kendrick Lamar may be the most important rapper to emerge this millenium since Kanye West. On To Pimp a Butterfly, the followup to his 2012 breakthrough Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, he's teamed up with high-profile producers like Pharrell Williams and Flying Lotus. Greg is floored by the album's macro-level themes, depicting the world as a kind of prison and engaging with racism, injustice, and black history in general. Equally stunning is the album's diverse musical range. Greg thinks Lamar is driving the sound of hip-hop forward while also looking back to the deepest roots of African-American music. Despite a few missteps, like a pretend interview with Tupac, Greg finds the ambition and execution flawless. Jim concurs. While he felt that Lamar didn't bring enough to the characters he played on his previous album, he now believes that Lamar is providing them with proper depth and context. He calls the record a musical smörgåsbord with its jazz underpinnings and its bevy of unexpected samples. To Pimp a Butterfly is a double-Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 487
untitled unmastered.untitled unmastered. available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar untitled unmastered.

Last year, Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar released the groundbreaking album To Pimp a Butterfly. Both fans and critics enjoyed the record, and it earned him numerous Grammy awards just a few weeks ago. Now he's back with untitled unmastered., his new album full of“leftover”tracks from Butterfly. To Greg, the polished songs hardly seemed like leftovers. He admires Lamar's fusion of different musical styles and poignant lyrics and says Buy It. Jim is also enthusiastic. While contemporaries Kanye West and Drake have also recently released“unfinished”material, this is a bigger achievement.“Short, but sweet”and a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 537
DAMN.DAMN. available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar DAMN.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar just released his latest album, DAMN. which follows his massive 2015 record To Pimp a Butterfly. Since his rise to prominence a few years ago, Lamar has become the standard to which other rappers and hip hop acts are measured. Jim finds DAMN. to be a“grower”that the listener appreciates with repeat listenings. While this record doesn‘t grab you in the same way as To Pimp a Butterfly, he loves Lamar’s latest effort. Between his enlightened lyrics and classic gangster rap sonics, Jim thinks this album is a Buy It. Greg agrees, as Kendrick shows a mastery of storytelling and flow with this record. And while the sound may be stripped down from previous albums, Kendrick is no less ambitious as he draws lines between street violence and American foreign policy. Greg says DAMN. is no less than a“masterpiece”making for a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 595
ComptonCompton available on iTunes

Dr. Dre Compton

Dr. Dre's Compton is the hip hop legend's first album since 1999, released as a companion to Straight Outta Compton, the new biopic of his former group N.W.A. Dre has been one of the most influential figures in hip hop, equally due to his own albums, his production work for artists like Snoop Dogg, and his history of grooming new talent like Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. Jim always thought Dre was overrated as a producer and is disgusted by the misogny in much of Compton's lyrics, which takes away from some of the more interesting political tracks. For Jim, it's a clear Trash It. Greg, on the other hand, praises Dre's production work, noting that by collaborating with younger producers King Mez and Justus he is reentering the conversation as a relevant figure. But Greg agrees that some of the lyrical content is stomach churning. Still, there are enough brilliant tracks to earn it a Try It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 508
Black Panther The Album Music From And Inspired ByBlack Panther available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar & Anderson Paak & the Weeknd & SZA & Vince Staples Black Panther

The film Black Panther has broken all sorts of box office records, but its the soundtrack that has caught Jim and Greg's attention. Helmed by Kendrick Lamar, the album features a stars like SZA, the Weeknd and Anderson Paak; but Greg notes that lesser known artists like singer Jorja Smith and South African rapper Yugen Blakrock are“the real revelation”here. Greg says Blakrock goes toe to toe and holds her own against Vince Staples on Opps. He adds that producer Sounwave contributes a“haunted”Carribean sound. Jim loves the "musical variety: R&B, rap, afro soul, and South African pop. He notes that though the album isn't as closely connected to the film as Curtis Mayfield's 1972 classic Super Fly, it is "a wonderful companion to the film". Jim and Greg give the album a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 640
PopularPopular available on iTunes

Van Hunt Popular

Soul-rocker Van Hunt's album Popular, originally slated for release back in 2008, is finally seeing the light of day. According to Greg, the record is“totally contemporary, and totally of the moment… still.” The album, a stylistic diversion from Van Hunt's previous efforts (Van Hunt [2006] and On the Jungle Floor [2007]), was shelved by Blue Note Records after promotional copies had been distributed to critics. Jim and Greg received copies of the album back then and gave the album an "enthusiastic double Buy It" – despite listeners not being able to purchase the music at the time. Now that Blue Note has given the record a proper release, Jim and Greg revisited the record. Greg calls it a Freudian, avant-garde take on Prince's Dirty Mind. He adds that the record has an“adventurous”blend of sonic elements like the mix of punk with falsetto soul vocals in "Turn My TV On." Jim says the record was ahead of its time in 2008 and still sounds absolutely fresh and current beside "other genre-bending maestros of R&B like Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar." Both Greg and Jim give Popular another double Buy It (and this time you can actually buy it).

JimGreg
Go to episode 614
The Fun Rises, the Fun Sets.The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets available on iTunes

Van Hunt The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets

Atlanta multi-instrumentalist Van Hunt has flirted with mainstream R&B success, but his genre-hopping tendencies have kept him from a wider audience. Jim thinks that's a shame, as his latest album The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets confirms that Van Hunt is one of the most innovative voices in neo-soul music along with Kendrick Lamar and D'Angelo. Jim sees both depth and joy in the record. The lascivious, erotically charged moments are naughty, yet never offensive. Van Hunt's musical prowess is on fine display, as he plays every instrument himself. Greg hears The Fun Rises as more narrowly focused than the previous album What Were You Hoping For? in a good way, showcasing a more uniform trippy funk style. For Greg, it's a record that works equally well for headphone listening as for dancing. Both critics give Van Hunt a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 496
Summertime '06Summertime ‘06 available on iTunes

Vince Staples Summertime ‘06

The year 2015 has been a prosperous time for rap and hip hop, with Fetty Wap, Wiz Khalifa, A.$.A.P. Rocky, and Silento dominating the charts. However, a new and different kind of artist has emerged with the debut album Summertime '06 from California rapper, Vince Staples. An ode to growing up in his native Long Beach, Greg finds Staples to be very talented in both writing and articulating his perspective. He compares Summertime '06 to early works by gangster rappers like N.W.A. and likes how he gives a lens into a culture that no one else is really talking about right now. It's a Buy It from Greg. Jim agrees and says that gangster rap can easily become misogynistic and pro-violence sounding, but that's not really what Staples is interested in doing. Jim compares him to artists like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper, but wishes that Vince would write more about the sense of community and positivity in the neighborhoods like Kendrick and Chance do. However, he believes Staples is a very important voice and give Summertime '06 a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 505
vince

Vince Staples FM!

Earlier this month, rapper Vince Staples suprise dropped his third album, FM! On this record, he combines catchy summer beats with devastating lyrics about violence, drugs and problems in his hometown of Long Beach, California. Jim thinks FM! is Staples's best work yet. Noting that the album is a tight 22 minutes, he believes his balance of cutting lyrics and party grooves puts him on par with the likes of Kendrick Lamar. Greg thinks Staples artfully blends the west coast, g-funk style with lyrics about the cycle of violence and suffering in black communities to great effect. He believes that Staples has brought something different to the table with each record, and thinks FM! is the perfect balance of introspection and celebration.

JimGreg
Go to episode 676
King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The PreludeKing Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude available on iTunes

Pusha T King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude

Virginia-bred rapper Pusha T recently released his second solo record called King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude. This album serves as a precursor to his main event – King Push – set to be released this spring. The rapper promises it will be unlike any hip hop album of the last 18 years. Greg says if this mysterious upcoming album is anything like The Prelude, he's sold. This record packs a punch with 10 intense tracks marked by Pusha's authoritative voice. He's lived what he's speaking about, and thus he delivers detail that, in Greg's opinion, is a step above that which his peers provide. Pusha offers powerful social commentary with grit and an understanding of the street life, and the album's a Buy It for Greg. Jim agrees that Pusha is an agile rapper with important things to say, but is disappointed in the album's continued glorification of cocaine dealing. Pusha's coverage of drug dealing doesn't nearly hit the depths that Kendrick Lamar's music does, and Jim tires of Pusha's coke-centric tracks. Finding this album to be half-Buy It, half-Trash It, Jim settles in the middle with a Try It review for King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude.

JimGreg
Go to episode 531
NO ONE EVER REALLY DIESNo_One Ever Really Dies available on iTunes

N.E.R.D. No_One Ever Really Dies

After a seven year hiatus, N.E.R.D. (the Pharrell Williams/Neptunes side project) has returned with their fourth album No_One Ever Really Dies. As The Neptunes, Chad Hugo & Pharrell crafted synthy, quirky, poppy hip hop and R&B for the likes of Jay-Z and Kelis in the 1990s and early '00s. Then in 1999, they formed N.E.R.D. with Shay Haley. In the time since N.E.R.D.'s last album, 2010's Nothing, Pharrell Williams has made a name for himself as a solo artist. Most notably, he achieved mainstream success with the smash hit "Happy," all while maintaining his signature sense of quirk. Greg says it's that quirkiness, along with a knack for hooks that attracted him to their sound in the first place. He likes this effort for its“weird, buzzy tone”and its psychedelic energy. Greg gives it a Buy It. Jim calls N.E.R.D. an“experimental garage band.”He adds this project has an uneven success rate with its long list of collaborations, including tracks with Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, and Ed Sheeran. Jim gives it a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 632
DrunkDrunk available on iTunes

Thundercat Drunk

Stephen Bruner, better know as Thundercat, is an in-demand session bassist. A resume containing artists from Kendrick Lamar to Suicidal Tendencies is testament to that. Thundercat is also a songwriter in his own right and has just released his third album, Drunk. Weighing in at 23 tracks, Greg says it is a challenging listen. With references to jazz fusion, Earth, Wind and Fire, and cameos from Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald he admits the album is“bewildering,”especially as Thundercat vacillates from introspective songs about mortality and police brutality, to shopping for anime in Tokyo. But, Greg says it is an“audio-veritae”of Thundercat's life, that shows virtuosity and personality. That said, Greg stops short of saying Buy It and instead gives it a Try It and he eagerly awaits what is next from Thundercat.Jim, had a much more visceral reaction to this record saying he“despises it”and claiming it left him with a skin rash (Editor's Note: we didn't verify this). He says the album is full of“pointless busyness”as Thundercat tries to cram too many ideas into his music. It goes without saying, Jim gives it a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 589
Anderson

Anderson .Paak Oxnard

Singer, rapper, and drummer Anderson .Paak stole the hearts of critics and fans alike with his debut solo album, Malibu, in 2016. But, Greg argues that his half dozen features on Dr. Dre's 2015 album Compton initially put .Paak on the map for many listeners. Dr. Dre returns the favor here, producing Oxnard: Anderson's ode to his hometown of Oxnard, California. Both Greg and Jim agree that the production shines here, and Jim is happy that the sound returns to the groovy, old-school roots of West Coast G-Funk. He thinks the album has a "wonderful, sunny vibe"; but, Oxnard is ulimately“a letdown.”According to Jim, tracks like "6 Summers" sum up“everything that's wrong with the record.”He laments that lyrically, .Paak has“nothing to say”and can‘t decide whether he wants to be a“mack daddy”or“woke.”Greg complicates that idea, noting that the conflictedness of the album reflects .Paak’s upbringing: he was raised in church in a community surrounded by a darker street element. They both agree that the record loses steam by the end, and that it's propped up by big-name cameos from rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Q-Tip. Greg adds that .Paak is a better artist than that and should be making records that don't need those kind of crutches."

JimGreg
Go to episode 679
lists

The Best Albums of 2015

Go to episode 524

The Best Albums of 2015…So Far

As of June 2015, Greg and Jim have already reviewed over a dozen records. Being good critics, they're going to point you towards some of their favorites of the year.

Go to episode 498

Top Albums of 2017… So Far

We're halfway through 2017, which means it's time to get a jump on the Best-Of Lists. Here are Jim and Greg's mid-year best Top 10 lists.

Go to episode 604

The Best Albums of 2017

It's Jim and Greg's favorite show of the year, where they get to reflect on the Best Albums of 2017. They also hear picks from listeners as well as the Sound Opinions production staff.

Go to episode 627

2017 in Song: Jim and Greg's Mixtapes

Each year, Sound Opinions flips the page on the calendar with a“mixtape”that sums up the year in music.

Greg's mixtape is organized as an homage to the themes explored in Kendrick Lamar's 2017 opus DAMN. The themes include FEAR., EMPATHY., MOURNING., and TRUTH. Jim's mixtape was inspired by what he calls the biggest story of 2017: the #MeToo movement.

Go to episode 631

The Best Songs of 2015: Mixtapes

Before we fully jump into 2016, let's say goodbye to 2015 with the year's best singles.

Go to episode 527

The Best Albums of 2012.

Jim and Greg have made their lists and checked 'em twice. Now the big moment has arrived. Without further ado: The Best Albums of 2012.

Go to episode 367

Best Albums of 2016…So Far

Greg and Jim just couldn't wait until December to talk about some of their new favorite albums. They discuss some of the best records of 2016 so far. Here are their complete lists:

Go to episode 553
features

Sample Platter: Beyoncé's "Freedom"

This week we debut a new segment called Sample Platter, where Jim and Greg highlight a fascinating use of sampling in a pop song. They kick things off with "Freedom" from Beyoncé's album Lemonade, one of the most compelling records of the year so far. The centerpiece of the song is an organ sample from "Let Me Try," an obscure 1969 recording by the Latin American psychedelic band Kaleidoscope. The band formed in Puerto Rico, signed to a Mexican label, and recorded its only album in the Dominican Republic, which sold only a few hundred copies. Beyoncé resurrected it, transforming its trippy vibe into a stomping, raging march. While Kaleidoscope's hippie-ish song came in the wake of the riots of 1968, Beyoncé brilliantly recontextualizes it as a modern protest anthem in the era of Black Lives Matter, featuring a notable guest appearance from Kendrick Lamar.

Go to episode 563
news

Music News

This week, the Pulitzer Prize for musical composition went to Kendrick Lamar for his 2017 album DAMN. Lamar is the first non-classical or jazz performer to win the prize. According to the Pulitzers, DAMN. is“a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”Jim wonders if this is a case of the Pulitzer committee "trying to match the Nobel Prize committee giving a Nobel to Bob Dylan?" Greg suggests that the Pulitzers did“a better job of recognizing genius”than the Grammies did. He adds that he fact that DAMN. did not win the Grammy for Album of the Year "is magnified now."

Go to episode 647

Music News

Last year, Apple purchased Beats headphones and its streaming service for $3 billion. This was an attempt to get away from the already antiquated iTunes method of paying to download a song. On June 8, Apple unveils what the new Beats will look like. The Wall Street Journal has reported a subscription will cost $10/month and there will be no free tier like on Spotify. Beats has also paid millions to Pharrell and Drake to be guest personality DJS (and to stay away from Jay Z's floundering TIDAL). Will it be the next big streaming service?

A$AP Rocky topped the Billboard Charts this week with his album At. Long. Last. ASAP. However he isn't the first hip hopartist to do so in 2015. Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Big Sean have all inhabited the number one spot. 2015 has had many different leaders as opposed to 2014, where the soundtrack to Disney's Frozen held top billing for much of the year. At 5th place comes a surprise: the religious band Hillsong United. Our hosts are curious to see how far their fame goes.

Go to episode 497

Music News

Lady Gaga has cancelled her "Born This Way" tour due to a hip injury. Millions of little monsters will be deprived of 22 national shows. And the Gaga camp might be out $35 million. With all the dancing and acrobatics, it's surprising more pop artists aren't wiped out by injuries which gives Jim and Greg a new appreciation for Tina Turner.

In other concert news, Paul McCartney will be headlining the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. He'll be joined by Mumford and Sons and Tom Petty, but also Wu-Tang Clan and Nas-some surprising additions to the traditionally roots and jam festival. Concertgoers will also be excited to hear about the Firefly Festival's plans for its second year, including theYeah Yeah Yeahs and Kendrick Lamar. Here in Chicago, the Pitchfork Festival has booked Bjork and in perplexing move, controversial hometown artist R. Kelly.

Finally, Jim and Greg bid farewell to songwriter and producer Shadow Morton. He was instrumental in bringing the Shangri-Las to fame with hits like "Leader of the Pack" and "Remember" that compressed teen angst dramas into three-minute pop operas. Shadow also later worked with Janis Ian and The New York Dolls.

Go to episode 378