Screens /// Thoughts x

The hip-hop star recently made, and nailed, his acting debut.

After conquering the worlds of hip-hop and musical composition, Kendrick Lamar is now stepping into the realm of on-screen performance expertise.

Lamar is a highly revered rapper from Compton, California, known for his lyrical mastery and impeccable MC skills. After dropping a set of mixtapes that slowly grew in popularity, he caught the attention of producer extraordinaire Dr. Dre, who signed him to his label.

Lamar then released his first album “good kid, m.A.A.d City,” featuring tracks like “Poetic Justice” and “Swimming Pools (Drank)” that helped to establish him as a serious talent within the musical community. He followed with another album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” which was praised for its well-thought-out, meaningful, politically charged lyrics. His ability to channel influence from an abundance of genres, including jazz, funk and soul, and infuse it all into powerful rap music was acclaimed by many.  

Then, he dropped “DAMN.” and had the entire music industry shaken to its core. The song “Humble” skyrocketed to fame, and soon there wasn’t a single person who was unable to quote the iconic “My left stroke just went viral / Right stroke put lil’ baby in a spiral,” lyric when the song was blasting out of the speakers at any event.

Another fan favorite was “Loyalty,” a collaboration with Rihanna that also took over hip-hop radio. “DAMN.” went on to be certified as double platinum and snag seven Grammy nominations, winning five of them.  

The momentous album’s successes didn’t end there. After sweeping the Grammys, a different highly respected group also bestowed “DAMN.” with an award. “DAMN.” became the first hip-hop album in history to receive a Pulitzer Prize for music, making Kendrick Lamar the first rap artist to ever add a Pulitzer Prize to his list of accolades.

And now, he’s taking on television.

Kendrick Lamar just made his acting debut in the show “Power,” which narrates the story of James “Ghost” St. Patrick, the owner of a famous NYC nightclub who lives a double life as a drug-dealing tycoon. His character is a drug addict known as Laces, and Kendrick sells the role as well as he would a new hip-hop single.  

His portrayal of the talkative, jittery Laces is spot-on. Lamar even whips out some rapid-fire lines in Spanish while in character. Laces assists Kanan, a character played by rapper 50 Cent, in committing murders disguised as drug deals.  

Fans of “Power” were extremely impressed by his acting abilities in his on-screen debut, especially considering that a persona like drug dealer Laces is a very complex character to portray well.

Lamar is a natural, leaving me wondering — is this a one-time gig or is this the beginning of Kendrick Lamar’s triumph in yet another artistic realm? Will he continue on television, maybe even sliding over into Hollywood films at some point?

Perhaps some Emmys and Oscars linger on the horizon, ready to join his already impressive array of artistic distinctions.

Writer Profile

Maya Ramani

University of Virginia

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