Kendrick Lamar is at the peak of his career. His new album Damn. has helped him put up extraordinary sales numbers, and allowed him to be viewed as arguably the face of hip hop today.
Through his rise within the rap game, it is important to understand though that Kendrick Lamar is also a historian of hip hop. He is aware of those who came before him, whether it’s an NWA, Notorious B.I.G., or Tupac Shakur, and at the same time, Kendrick is still able to create his own music, which is still groundbreaking.
This idea of Kendrick Lamar being a historian, who is influenced by those before him, yet still an individual who can create unique music, led us to the comparison of Kendrick as the rap version of the “Library of Babel“.
The “Library of Babel” is an online library, of almost every possible combination of letters in a collection of hundreds of books. If someone types practically any sentence, paragraph, page of words, or even this article, then it is already found within the book.
Kendrick Lamar fits that description when it comes to hip hop.
He is able to have deference for those before him, learn from past rappers, and then be impacted by those artists.
This is illustrated in his music and the way in which he approaches the game. For example, on the song “Mortal Man”, he has a hypothetical interview with 2Pac, who tells Kendrick that rappers today are simply telling the stories of past rappers who have passed away. Therefore, what Kendrick has said in his tracks is simply the words and stories of those coming before him, which leads to the phenomena of the Library of Babel.
Overall, Kendrick is amazing in his own right. It still appears as though Kendrick is writing his own original novel within that library. A book that includes teaching hip hop to a generation, that sometimes struggles with understanding ourselves, what our history is, and what stories were written before we even knew those stories existed.