Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, who performs under the stage name Kendrick Lamar, was born in Compton, California, on June 17, 1987. Lamar is an award-winning rapper and songwriter best know for his innovative take on life growing up in Southern California. His parents moved to Compton from Chicago to escape the city's gang culture, although Lamar's father had been associated with the notorious Gangster Disciples gang in Chicago. As the 1980s crack epidemic and gang presence in the Compton area increased, Kendrick grew up around precarious street activity, but he seemed more influenced than harmed by it. He was a good student who enjoyed writing...first stories and poems, and then lyrics.
Kendrick Lamar's second album titled, To Pimp a Butterfly, explores themes of self-love and self-hate, fame, depression, violence, race, and politics through a spoken-word poem that interweaves between songs, leading up to the climax on the final track, Mortal Man, where it is revealed that Kendrick was reading the poem to late West Coast rapper, Tupac Shakur, all along.
Here is the excerpt from that song:
I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power, full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screaming in the hotel room
I didn't wanna self destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went running for answers
Until I came home
But that didn't stop survivor's guilt
Going back and forth trying to convince myself the stripes I earned
Or maybe how A-1 my foundation was
But while my loved ones was fighting the continuous war back in the city
I was entering a new one
A war that was based on apartheid and discrimination
Made me wanna go back to the city and tell the homies what I learned
The word was respect
Just because you wore a different gang color than mine's
Doesn't mean I can't respect you as a black man
Forgetting all the pain and hurt we caused each other in these streets
If I respect you
We unify and stop the enemy from killing us
But I don't know
I'm no mortal man
Maybe I'm just another n****
Lamar starts by stating he feels conflicted about the use and misuse of his power in his position of influence...resulting in a state of despair and depression that reaches a state of culmination in a hotel room. He speaks about fame & fortune and trying to save himself self-destruction (suicide) and the "evils of Lucy" (Lucifer). Lamar couldn't escape the survivors guilt he feels leaving his loved ones in the city to fight the "continuous war" (gang violence, racial injustice and poverty)...while he entered a new war (global struggles faced by the world’s oppressed populations...Apartheid in South Africa for example.) Which made him want to go back to Compton and tell his friends and family the things he has learned. Respect...he ackowledges that just because we may be from different neighborhoods, it doesn't mean we can't respect one another as black men and unite to stop "the enemy (Lucifer, the police, the government, the white man, etcetera) from killing us.
I really think this deeply relates to our community and world today simply because it was written recently. We may not all be burdened with the dualites of fame and fortune, but we can all relate to the pain and hurt he speaks of, whether it be slef-inflicted of inflicted upon others, which sometimes translates into depression, guilt and hatred.
Below you'll find a link to Kendrick Lamar reading his poem, Mortal Man