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Rap capital honors native son Lamar before Grammys

COMPTON, United States: Kendrick Lamar, the reflective rapper who is nominated for a near record haul of Grammys, enjoyed a hero’s welcome Saturday as he returned to his hometown of Compton.

The notoriously rough city in Los Angeles County, which gave birth to gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A. in the 1980s, presented Lamar a symbolic key to the city, as students from local schools put on choreographed dances to his songs.

Lamar is in contention for 11 Grammys on Monday at the music industry’s signature award ceremony, more than any artist in history except Michael Jackson.

The 28-year-old has won wide acclaim for his album “To Pimp a Butterfly,” an experimental rap opus whose tracks include “Alright,” which has become an unofficial anthem of Black Lives Matter movement against police abuse.

Lamar told the students that he was proof of Compton’s resilience, saying, “I knew for a fact that I could be anything I wanted to be.”

“Through all the pain and hardship – losing family members, losing homeboys – for some reason we always still love Compton because we have faith,” he said.

“Before I wrote, ‘We’re gonna be alright,’ that’s what we’re thinking since day one,” said Lamar, who now lives elsewhere in southern California.

Regis Inge, who taught Lamar in middle school, called the rapper’s success “a teacher’s dream come true.”

“You have not only pursued your dream, but you have taken on the responsibility that comes with leading people to their own destiny,” he said.

Satra Zurita, president of the school board, predicted that “Alright” will live on for decades as a great protest song, in a league with Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”

Lamar came “just when rap started to begin to sound like a bunch of repetitive cliches, and sometimes like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, that even I, who was born in the rap capital of the world, cannot understand,” she said.

Lamar “single-handedly restored the art of storytelling and social consciousness in the genre of rap, this generation’s music,” she said.

If the praise was not enough, Mayor Aja Brown assured Lamar that the key to the city was bigger than the one just received by chart-topping rapper Drake from his hometown of Toronto.

Despite leading in Grammy nominations, Lamar faces tough competition in key categories from artists including pop superstar Taylor Swift.

-New Straits Times

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