Promise That You Will Sing About Me: The Power and Poetry of Kendrick Lamar

St. Martin’s. Aug. 2021. 256p. ISBN 9781250231680. $29.99. MUSIC
Music journalist Lewis (There’s a Riot Goin’ On) critiques the success of hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar, within the contexts of recent Black history, music, and literature in the U.S. The author begins in Lamar’s native Compton neighborhood (in L.A.), where the rapper drew inspiration from Tupac Shakur and created mixtapes as K-Dot. Lewis covers Lamar’s critically acclaimed debut, Section.80 (2011); his million-selling concept album good kid, m.A.A.d city; and his contentious contribution to Big Sean’s “Control” (2013). Lewis then analyzes the rapper’s masterpiece album To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), which reinvigorated socially conscious hip-hop. The author also examines Lamar’s contribution to the soundtrack to the movie Black Panther (2018), his work with the supergroup Black Hippy (which also included Jay Rock, ScHoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul), and his more personally oriented record DAMN (2017), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for music. Dynamic illustrations add context and complement the text.
VERDICT Though he sometimes repeats himself, adopts a jumbled format, and dwells on his own background too much, Lewis expertly places his subject in historical, musical, and literary context and significantly adds to the dozen books about Lamar for music fans.
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