Numbers On The Board is a series, which focuses on the success of artists, album ratings and their relationship with the quality of music.
When collecting data for this chart, I read a lot of reviews that talk about Kendrick Lamar. And I picked up immediately, he’s spoken of in a special way. A genius level way, in the same manner as they do when reviewing early Prince, so it just made me wonder… Will Kendrick's decline with the critics happen in a similar way as it did in Prince reviews?
Like Prince, Kendrick is the genius of his time, who is inspiring and shaping a lot of musical minds. 35 years ago in 1985, Prince was something beyond a modern 80s Pop star. He was literally out there redefining what Pop Music could be, every single one of his albums were a shift to a new sound that caused a ripple effect, not only in his period but, decades after to the point that you can hear Prince inspired production and vocal performances from something as sweet and innocent as D'angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" to something as bleak and dark as the The Weekend's "Call Out My Name". He was without an equal, he was so separated from his peers that he was his own special standard. He was a genius, who only dropped classics, then... he started failing to meet his own standards and then the critics came out with pitchforks (excuse the irony) and torches.
They flamed Prince for not being the same genre-redefining talent when my man was about 10 albums in and from then on, everything he put out was meet with heavy criticism for being just "good". He was supposed to always be ahead of the curve but he now had a legion of young artists out there, inspired by him, looking to explore his landscape in other directions such as the aforementioned D'angelo dropping his undisputed classic, “Brown Sugar”, 9 years after Prince had left his classic period that included (I'm not kidding when I say this) 7 CLASSICS IN 7 YEARS. The list reads; "Dirty Mind", "Controversy", "1999", "Purple Rain", "Around The World In A Day" , "Parade" and "Sign O' The Times".
I swear if you listen to each of these albums, you'll hear something eerily similar to one of your favourite RnB artists right now. It was real genius. I've heard everyone from Rihanna to Dua Lipa, they're all somewhere on these albums.
Prince spent every Year from 1980 - 1987 redefining Pop, the critics thought it might never end, after all he was only 29 in 87, then he stopped being ahead of the curve. In 1994, there was a young kid doing his sound better than him, the games cruel.
When is 1994 for Kendrick? It's impossible to say but it's also impossible to stay ahead of the curve forever. Look at Kanye West. He reshaped the rap landscape over 6 albums and has been sighted as an inspiration for all kinds of rappers ranging from Cole to Travis Scott and immediately, he fell out of a truly unsustainable run of brilliance, the critics are giving him his Prince treatment.
Kendrick Lamar does not have a bad review from a credible site, cause he doesn't deserve one but one slip and 9 years’ worth of nitpicks are coming out over one album. Kendrick is in a golden period, a classic moment for an entire generation of kids who are going to enter his landscape and chase their own "How Does It Feel" moment.
The same people who worship him now in all these reviews, will be killing him as for the first time in maybe 15 years, they'll hear his distinct individual sound in a whole new way. The mirror between the two stands out extremely to me. The Prince influence list is just absolutely crazy to look. I want everyone to assume an artist of a similar level comes out and ends up on this level from a Kendrick influence in rap.
The Prince influenced list includes;
Beyonce; who interpolated Prince's "If I Was Your Girlfriend" in her verse on Jay Z's "03 Bonnie And Clyde", Andre 3000 – "Prototype", The Weekend – "Glass Table Girls", Miguel – "Arch N Point", Bruno Mars – "Uptown Funk" and Frank Ocean – "When You Were Mine"
In the words of The Weeknd, "Michael was doing that too, but he wasn't as experimental, Prince turned experimental music into pop music......which I felt House of Balloons was. Image, lyrics, content, storytelling, cohesive body of work; That's Prince to me".
The Weeknd is the best one to me, Prince inspired the entirety of "House Of Balloons" which opened the landscape to a whole other area of Pop, and in that sense, just like he did in the 80s – Prince distinct sound slightly adjusted was worth another generational pop music era.
Kendrick will have this effect on another whole generation of rappers, who will take his conscious distinct west coast sound to even higher levels. With that being said, as it currently stands – Kendrick is on upwards cycle. He’s become more commercially viable with every release and while being a multi-platinum rapper, his quality hasn’t slacked off either.
Let's appreciate a genius in his time.
Written by Elijah Mwamba | Twitter @ElijahMWamba24
Edited by Dithekgo Mogadime | Twitter @DithekgoM