Today, it’s a two-fer! I’ve got to give some love to two of my favorite musical artists (and two of the top nominated and winningest musicians at the 2018 Grammys), Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars.
Some might deem me as a late bloomer to Lamar’s discography, but I feel I’m right on time, since his latest albums, To Pimp a Butterfly and D.A.M.N., have been the most solid coalescing of his ideas and themes. That’s not to discredit the rest of his albums—they’re all quite good. But these last two have shown his maturity and growth, and I’m glad they have been rewarded, especially D.A.M.N., which boils down Lamar’s anger, malaise, focus on self-perfection, and his undercover hopefulness to its most concentrated and stripped-down forms.
Let’s not forget that Lamar’s bringing his singular voice to the Black Panther soundtrack. The two singles that have been released are awesome, and I can’t wait to hear what else Lamar is going to blow our minds with. If he doesn’t get an Oscar and a Grammy (or multiples of both) in 2019, I call shade.
Like Lamar, Mars’ narrative voice has also blossomed at just the right time. No longer do we have a Mars that seems like he’s just making company hits designed to get on the Top 40 charts; now, he’s making music that speaks to a specific genre, a specific audience, and a specific mood. His focus on the music that’s made the most impact on his life—black music of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s—has redefined his career in all of the best ways. Combined with his showmanship on stage, he’s become one of the most dynamic acts to watch. Just take a look at his December 2017 concert at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, which aired on CBS as a holiday special. It was too much fun, and I wish I was there to see it live.
While I’m talking about Mars, I’d like to address something—I don’t get where some people see Mars as stealing black music. He has openly credited black music and black artists as influences in his career, and he didn’t do it in a Justin Timberlake way. He clearly respects black creativity. If we as black people can accept Teena Marie, Bobby Caldwell, the white guys from Average White Band, and The Doobie Brothers, then Mars deserves a break. Let him make good music.
What are your favorite Lamar and Mars songs? Write about them in the comments section below!