5 years since its release, I had to break down the influence Kendrick Lamar’s breakout mixtape (O)verly (D)edicated had on me. Prior to the tape, I was somewhat familiar with him but never paid close attention to him.
I first heard K. Dot in 2009 (as he was called then) on Big Pooh’s “Nothing Less” a song which featured his TDE cohorts, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul. I never paid much attention.
Fast forward a year and some change later, it was a few days before fall semester and I had some time to kill. I decided to take the 10 minute drive from my apartment to Duke University’s campus. While on campus I fell thru my homie Will’s spot and in the midst of our conversation he cued the video for an abbreviated version of “Ignorance Is Bilss” on his TV. The video, particularly the crescendo leading to the denouement was intriguing, but the off kilter flow and whiny voice left me uninterested. Once again, I shrugged Kendrick Lamar off.
Call me nerdy, anti-social, a loser. But, I’ve spent a more than half of my 25 years on earth as a member of various message boards. Connecting with people all over the world and conversing with people with similar interests has kept me consistently logging in on a daily basis. Relationships I’ve built on message boards have been fruitful, and led to various projects and collaborations over the years. NikeTalk was a message board I joined in the summer of 2009. While the forum is geared to sneaker connoisseurs, it’s also a hotbed for sports, random talk, and music. Posting and browsing forums/15, as the music forum is colloquially known as, I’ve been put on a gang of artists, from Dom Kennedy, to Toro y Moi, to Le$, no coincidence all artists I’ve posted about on the blog. In late September 2010 there was a thread slowly gaining momentum about Kendrick Lamar’s Overly Dedicated. I read through it and took a listen…
Review my posts from late 2010-early 2011 and plenty of them featured a lot of Kendrick’s music. I look back and along with Big K.R.I.T’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here those were the two projects I related to the most. I was just a 20 year old, trying to find himself and gain a foothold in a changing world. Whippin’ my 1996 Ford Explorer around Durham, transmission slipping, power windows not working, all I cared about was finishing college and making money to cover my rent and have pocket change.
From get go, the first track, the “Heart Pt. 2” caught my attention. Tracks like “Growing Apart,” the uptempo “Michael Jordan,” and “Cut You Off” all got me thinking and were mainstays in my rotation. I’d say “H.O.C.” was my favorite as Kendrick described being on the conservative side of ordinary rapper/studio activities. What really makes this tape special was Kendrick’s willingness to address his flaws, insecurities, and simply be himself. I found those qualities endearing as a listener.
Another interesting fact, is the role OD had in Kendrick’s future projects. TDE’s co-President Punch, described the concepts in a 2012 oral history of good kid, m.A.A.d. city
“Overly Dedicated was supposed to be remixes but it turned into a whole project. Songs like ‘Average Joe’ off OD was one of the original concepts for good kid, m.A.A.d. city. Even ‘Keisha Song’ was initially for good kid, m.A.A.d. city, but it was from a different point of view.
In retrospect “Average Joe” definitely fits into the narrative of Kendrick’s debut album. Quite simply, I’ll call this mixtape a prerequisite to listening to any of Kendrick Lamar’s other projects and understanding his story.
The Rise/Present Day
Since 2010, Kendrick Lamar has been on a steady climb. I knew he was an artist I’d keep tabs on, but I couldn’t foresee him catapulting to the Billboard Charts with a number of lead and featured singles or even predict him dropping one of the most memorable verses of the past decade.
At this point he’s firmly entrenched himself in rap’s elite and it all started with Overly Dedicated.