Raised in Compton, California, Lamar embarked on his musical career as a teenager under the stage name K-Dot, releasing a mixtape that garnered local attention and led to his signing with indie record label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE).
He began to gain recognition in 2010, after his first retail release, Overly Dedicated. The following year, he independently released his first studio album, Section.80, which included his debut single, “HiiiPoWeR”. By that time, he had amassed a large online following and collaborated with several prominent artists in the hip hop industry, including The Game, Busta Rhymes, and Snoop Dogg.
Lamar’s major label debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, was released in 2012 by TDE, Aftermath, and Interscope Records to critical success. It debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart and was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The record contained the top 40 singles “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, and “Poetic Justice”. It was nominated for Album of the Year and Best Rap Album at the 56th Grammy Awards.
His critically acclaimed third album To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) comprised funk, soul, and spoken word, debuted atop the charts in the US and the UK, and won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album at the 58th ceremony, where it was nominated for Album of the Year. In 2016, Lamar released Untitled Unmastered, a collection of unreleased demos that originated during the recording sessions for Butterfly. He released his fourth album Damn. in 2017 to further acclaim; its lead single “Humble” topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Lamar has received a number of accolades over the course of his career, including twelve Grammy Awards. In early 2013, MTV named him the number one “Hottest MC in the Game”, on their annual list. Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2016. Aside from his solo career, Lamar is also known as a member of the West Coast hip hop supergroup Black Hippy, alongside his TDE label-mates and fellow South Los Angeles–based rappers Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, and Schoolboy Q. In 2018, Damn. became the first non-classical and non-jazz album to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music.