Born and raised in Compton, 24-year-old rising rapper Kendrick Lamar unsurprisingly counts Tupac and Dr. Dre among his musical idols. But rather than just aping the gangster posturing without any of the depth, Lamar has put his own fresh spin on West Coast hip-hop.
Some have tagged him as "conscious rap," but you won't really find Lamar rocking a kufi or eating papaya in a video. Instead, his brand of consciousness comes with street swagger, although he also takes pains to avoid glorifying ignorance.
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With a slightly gruff, rapid-fire cadence, his style stands out in a scene that often favors poppy, singsong spitting. Still, up to now, most of Lamar's hype has been based on mixtape and guest-star appearances, so he'll have to prove himself with his debut album, Good Kid in a Mad City, due out next year.