Why you haven’t heard it:
The 2011 debut studio release from a fairly underground Compton rapper was not on the radar of many, barring devoted hip-hop heads. Most casual fans think that Kendrick Lamar’s major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d. city was his first album, so Section.80 is often passed over. It had no hit singles and lacked big name features, but the people lucky enough to have discovered Lamar early will attest to its importance. The album was also only released digitally, making it a more limited release than his later albums.
Why it might be tough to get through:
Section.80 is a concept album that follows the narrative of a generation of ‘80s babies’ and their societal and personal struggles. Many times Lamar isn’t rapping from a personal perspective, but rather those of various members of the community he finds himself a part of. In a bold contrast to his personal values, there are vivid mentions of drug use, crime, prostitution, domestic abuse, and religion that may be a little shocking for some.
Why you should listen to it anyway:
The album is a joy to listen to, as the production varies in style but also remains true to the core theme of the album. The content of the record is where it’s worth truly lies. It’s comparable to a reformation of the J.D. Salinger novel The Catcher in the Rye, focusing on the alienation and the painful phoniness of the adult world. It is an exploration of those raised in the Ronald Reagan Era, tackling their skewed identity and fragmented moral compass.
Rapper/Producer J. Cole produced the song “HiiiPower.” Plans for a collaboration album were in the works before they both rose to hip-hop supremacy, and the pair still intends to one day release an album together.
Lamar cited a visit from rapper Tupac Shakur in a dream as the inspiration to write the album.
Best lines and songs:
“Wicked as 80 reverends in a pool of fire with devils holding hands. From a distance, don’t know which one is a Christian… damn” from the song “Hol’ Up”.
“I used to want to see the penitentiary way after elementary. Thought it was cool to look the judge in the face when he sentenced me. Since my uncles was institutionalized. My intuition has said I was suited for family ties” from the song “Poe Man Dreams (His Vice)”.
“Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)”
“Ronald Reagan Era (His Evils)”