The release of Kendrick Lamar's new album Damn. has once again shown me the huge differences between how music critics digest albums and how the "streets" digest music (by the term 'streets' I'm referring to the general public of rap fans currently buying music). Let me first say that I thought this last album by Kendrick was phenomenal. And from everything I've read online, most of the music critics out there agree with me or at least felt the album was well above average. His perspective, approach, creativity and voice is much needed in the genre of mainstream rap that has grown increasingly materialistic, shallow, hedonistic, and savage.
But unfortunately, the vast majority of young (and not so young) rap fans I talk to about the album really aren't feeling it. For my 9 to 5, I'm in and out of grocery stores all over the south side of Chicago staffed with fellow black men between the ages of 18 and 40 and naturally we get into discussions on current events, politics, and of course music. The overall reception of the album was unenthusiastic and the overall opinion of Kendrick was that he was a "weirdo rapper", "not black enough", "doesn't go in hard enough", "too laid back", and I even heard one guy say he "wasn't savage enough" and attributed his fame and record sales to "niggas on the west coast". Everybody has their right to an opinion (especially with something as subjective as music), but I just don't know what album they were listening to! Now I heard similar complaints about Kendrick when he released To Pimp A Butterfly about him being too weird and not giving the streets what they want to hear and I disagreed then too.
It's all made me wonder why the streets hardly ever embrace the same music that music critics hold in such high regard. Is it because they live different types of lives so feed off different types of vibes? Is it that music critics get their music for free so aren't as demanding and picky as far as what they want to hear? Is it that they've listened to sooo much music due to their profession that they are more welcoming to left field, artistic risk-taking? Do we need more music critics that are actually from the streets or even still "in the streets"? Are cats in the streets dumbed down so much by everything else classified as rap that a Kendrick Lamar comes off...well, weird? I really don't have the answers. I wish I did so this article could be longer. But I do know what I like, and I do know I vibe with all of Kendrick's releases heavily. He's 4 for 4 currently on his first 4 LP's, which hasn't been done in rap in a loooong time. And I do know that rap music that's universally heralded by critics (as of lately) usually gets dissed or ignored by the majority of the hood, but I kind of blame that partially on the extinction of record stores.
What do ya'll think? Do music critics just have bad taste in hip hop? Do I? Do street cats just not want to hear weirdo rap? Am I polling the wrong people? Is there such thing as music people want to hear but also music people need to hear? What do ya'll think? 'Cause I ain't got the answers, Sway.