“Fire burning inside my eyes /
This the music that saved my life /
Y’all be calling it Hip-Hop, I be calling it hypnotize /
Trap my body, but free my mind”
Kendrick Lamar kicks the door off the hinges of Section.80 with the politically charged banger ‘F—k Your Ethnicity’, a cinematic introduction where the Compton-born emcee embraces any and every racial background with his effortless flows over a soulful, piano-driven backdrop. Compared to his self-titled EP and 2010’s O(verly) D(edicated) projects, Lamar takes a backseat to the environment around him on this heavily jazz influenced body of work. The Sounwave-produced ‘Hol’Up’ acts as a smooth change of pace record, whose jazzy, triumphant horns would have held more impact later on the album. The feel-good jam interrupts the momentum Lamar gathered during his fiery testimony of an introduction.
The Colin Munroe-assisted ‘No Make-Up (Her Vice)’ offers an illustration of how image conscious society has become, with the second verse providing the point of view of a superficial young woman, pertinent to the Section.80 backstory. Despite its dull, repetitive hook, ‘Ronald Reagan Era’ invites listeners inside a graphic memory of Lamar’s childhood during the crack infested era named after the conservative 40th president. Comprised of vivid and braggadocio rhymes, ‘Era’ is the blueprint upon which Section.80 is designed. ‘Tammy’s Song (Her Evils)’ offers a tale of dual young ladies who explore their sexuality together, a subject still considered taboo nowadays to some just as it was during the 1980s, after discovering their male significant others to be cheating.
‘Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)’ initiates a trilogy of records among the best run of the year. Written and recorded for his younger sister to take heed to, Kendrick crafts an evocatively gorgeous record where he envisions the life of a prostitute, exploiting her body to get ahead and the only path that life can lead to. Kendrick Lamar delivers his best lyrical performance on the aptly titled ‘Rigamortis.’ Backed by royal horns and a hypnotic New York Golden Era-influenced instrumental, K. Dot wreaks havoc on the studio, leaving broken microphones, shattered production boards and the bodies of mangled rappers in his wake. Discussing his own take on religion and morality, ‘Kush & Corinthians (His Pain)’ works double as a laidback joint to ride out to on the darkest of nights. Lamar questions whether he has lived a Christian life well enough to be allowed entrance into God’s sanctum before flipping to an alternate outlook straight out of the hood flick Menace II Society.
The rhyme slinger made a bold declaration in placing the J.Cole-helmed ‘HiiPoWeR’ last: “Stand for something or die in the morning.” Armed with the blessings of Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and Fred Hampton, K. Dot screams for rebellion on ‘HiiiPoWeR.’ He takes a stand as a man unafraid, foreseeing his eventual assassination, delivered prophetically on the final verse of the album. Due to the consistent, overall sound of the album, Lamar’s latest offering can appear fairly overlong (‘Poe Mans Dream’ feels out of place and fails to help matters in this respect). The included “chapters” assist in ushering the back-story, but ultimately make for unneeded filler. Section.80 puts forward a fine assortment of colorful narratives and raw frankness into the life of an Compton-born 80’s baby, while remaining relevant to today’s environment.
4 spins (out of 5)