His major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, landed at No. 2 on Nielsen SoundScan’s album chart behind only Taylor Swift’s Red in October. A surprise show in front of the Staples Center in Los Angeles the night before the album dropped, announced via tweet, drew so many fans police had to shut it down. Lady Gaga and Dr. Dre have collaborated with him.
And the young man from Compton, Calif., hit the mainstream when Time declared the album one of the 10 best of the year.
The 23-year-old rapper, formerly known as K.Dot, is hardly a newcomer to the scene. Lamar released his first mixtape at 16, which earned him the attention of Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony Tiffith. The company continues to manage his career, as well as that of his group collaboration, Black Hippy.
He’s already worked with rap royalty such as The Game, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Drake, and DJ Quick. Dr. Dre executive-produced good kid, mA.A.d city and is a mentor. Lamar’s collaborated on two songs with Lady Gaga: “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Partynauseous.” The Source magazine has declared Lamar 2012’s “rookie of the year.”
Despite a tough upbringing in Compton, Lamar has largely avoided many of its stereotypes such as gratuitously violent lyrics or inane publicity beefs. He credits his father for providing wisdom and balance to his life, and it’s reflected in his work.
“Kendrick is in such a great place, setting the stage for us to develop his career internationally,” said agent Zach Iser of ICM Partners.
Iser, and Caroline Yim in the company’s Los Angeles office, work with Top Dawg’s Dave Free representing Lamar.
“Kendrick is so hot right now, and it’s exciting to see the crowds react to his performances,” Yim said. “The majority of his shows have sold out, and his debut album has only been out for six weeks.”
Lamar is in Europe and Canada through February. He’ll play colleges in spring and major festivals in summer.