What will Kendrick Lamar's new album mean for his legacy?
Kendrick Lamar's latest album, DAMN., drops on April 14.
The Compton, Calif., native's established place as one of the most consistent voices in modern hip-hop makes this release highly anticipated. The album's lead single, "Humble.," already debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking his highest-charting single as a lead artist. Along with recently announced collaborations with Rihanna and U2 and production collaboration with Mike WiLL Made-It, who grabbed three GRAMMY nominations at the 59th GRAMMY Awards for his work on Beyoncé's Lemonade, this may seem like a lot of pressure to put on a new release. But Lamar's past peer recognition, like that of some of the GRAMMYs' top winning rappers before him, would seem to suggest otherwise.
Among his seven career GRAMMY wins and 22 nominations, Lamar earned his first career nominations for 2013 for Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, including coveted nods for Album Of The Year and Best Rap Album. His follow-up, the critically acclaimed To Pimp A Butterfly, earned Lamar another Album Of The Year nomination and a Song Of The Year nomination for "Alright" at the 58th GRAMMY Awards in 2016. The album netted him three of his five GRAMMYs that year: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for "Alright."
These GRAMMY accolades have cemented Lamar's place in a line of hip-hop artists who've built their GRAMMY legacies across their own series of successful consecutive album drops. Eminem and Kanye West are, respectively, the No. 1 and No. 2 top winners in the history of the Best Rap Album GRAMMY category.
Eminem has flexed influential musical muscle throughout the last 20 years of his recording career. Eminem is the proud owner of six GRAMMY Awards for Best Rap Album, a streak that started with The Slim Shady LP and included all his subsequent releases except one. Among his 15 career GRAMMY wins and 43 nominations, he's also earned Album Of The Year nods for three of his solo releases, including 2000's The Marshall Mathers LP, 2002's follow-up The Eminem Show and 2010's Recovery.
West needs no introduction — he's taken home Best Rap Album GRAMMYs for four of his seven solo releases, including The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Each of his first three albums was also nominated for Album Of The Year.
West's early success, much like Lamar's, came to fruition largely through his ability to dynamically expand the boundaries of genre, in the process redefining the contemporary sound of modern hip-hop. Furthermore, both artists' collaborations across disparate genres showcase hip-hop's massive influence on mainstream pop music.
Eminem's 2010 collaboration with Rihanna on "Love The Way You Lie" garnered five GRAMMY nominations all on its own. West's collaboration with Rihanna and Jay Z on "Run This Town" won the GRAMMY for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song for 2009. "All Of The Lights," a collaboration between West, Rihanna, Fergie, and Kid Cudi, earned the team Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for 2011.
Given her collaborative track record, Rihanna seems like a natural fit for Lamar's latest album. Meanwhile, the choice to collaborate with U2 may raise some eyebrows. However, U2 played a minor role in West's early career by inviting him to join several dates on the United States and Australian legs of their successful Vertigo tour, which helped place West in front of a wider audience at a crucial stage in his career.
Time will tell if Lamar's all-star collaborations can further amplify buzz surrounding DAMN. in the same manner they've done for other artists in the genre. Regardless, Lamar's hotly anticipated release is expected to make an artistic statement that could build on his legacy similar to the hip-hop luminaries who have come before him.