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From watching Tupac film 'California Love' aged eight to having a conversation with him on 'To Pimp a Butterfly'
We break down exactly how Kendrick Lamar grafted his way to the top of his industry. This is K. Dot's story...
His mother named him after singer Eddie Kendricks who was a lead singer in Motown group 'The Temptations' - music was always a big part of the family's life.
His dad took him to see Tupac and Dr. Dre filming at the Compton Swap Meet, just round the corner from where he lived.
In 2003, Kendrick dropped his first release, ‘Youngest Head N**ga in Charge (Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year)’ under the name of K.Dot. The mixtape was shared around local high schools.
His friend, Dave Free, now TDE’s co-president, sneakily played Kendrick’s mixtape to TDE founder Anthony Tiffith while pretending to fix his PC. Tiffith asked Kendrick to come to audition and he freestyled for hours for Tiffith who was impressed but remained pokerfaced.
'Training Day', released in 2005, featured mix of original productions and well-known beats. “In the next 26 tracks you will learn about the streets,” read the tag on the cover art. By this point, Kendrick seemed to be developing his own unique style having previously emulated the flows of Jay Z, Tupac and DMX.
He begun performing in front of bigger audiences as the opening act for The Game as well as featuring on his tracks “The Cypha” and “Cali N***az”.
During a segment of Hamilton’s show he freestyles with fellow rappers in the audience, Kendrick stepped up and the two had a historic battle.
Titled ‘C4’, it features an opening track co-sign from Lil Wayne and a cover art tribute to Weezy’s ‘Tha Carter III’.
“I [wanted] people to know who I am as a person and who I represent,” he explained to Hard Knock TV.
That same year, Kendrick forms the group 'Black Hippy' with his TDE label-mates Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, and Schoolboy Q.
It’s his first charting release, reaching 72nd place on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts.
One of the mixtape’s tracks, ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ makes its way to Dr Dre after being spotted by Eminem’s manager.
“It came to a point where I had to really snap out of fan mode and become a professional because after we were introduced, he said he liked my music and I said that I’m a fan of his work,” said Kendrick of Dre in a recent radio interview.
He’s joined by fellow up-and-coming rappers CyHi the Prynce, Meek Mill, Mac Miller, Yelawolf and Big K.R.I.T..
It goes on to sell 5,300 digital copies in its first week without any television or radio coverage.
While performing at a gig in Los Angeles, The Game comes on and tells Kendrick that’s he’s carrying the torch for West Coast hip hop. Later, Snoop Dogg, Game, Warren G, and Kurupt all appear on-stage to give Kendrick props.
It marks the end of his career as an independent artist as he transitions to the majors.
It debuts at number two, selling 242,122 copies in its first week and receives widespread critical acclaim.
Kendrick vows to lyrically “murder” almost every upcoming rapper in the game, including: J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale, Pusha T, Meek Mill, ASAP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electronica, Tyler, The Creator and Mac Miller. He also calls himself the “King of New York”, much to the displeasure of many New York-based rappers.
Despite receiving a total of seven nominations at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in 2014, including Best New Artist, Album of the Year, and Best Rap Song, Kendrick comes away empty handed. Even Macklemore, who won Best Rap Album, concedes that Kendrick was “robbed”.
Kendrick wins both Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for his song “i” at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards in 2014.
The tracks deals some heavy topics including the legacy of slavery in the US, racism and black-on-black crime.
It’s released a week early on March 16, 2015. The album debuted atop the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and was labelled by many critics as a classic. The final track 'Mortal Man' features Kendrick asking Tupac questions and an old recording of a Tupac interview.