'Section 80': Kendrick Lamar’s ‘cult classic’ debut album remembered a decade on

Since its release in 2011, 'Section 80' has gone on to become one of Lamar's most iconic works, as internet dubs him 'greatest rappers of all time'

                            'Section 80': Kendrick Lamar’s ‘cult classic’ debut album remembered a decade on
Kendrick Lamar performs on the Coachella Stage during day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 23, 2017, in Indio, California (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Over the past decade, we've seen many iconic musicians make their mark. From Justin Beiber to Ed Sheeren, and The Weeknd to James Blake, several debut albums made careers. However, one of the most iconic is clearly Kendrick Lamar. The California rapper dropped his debut studio album 'Section 80' on July 2, 2011. A decade on, the album is very much the talk of the town, as social media users rate it one of the best albums from 2011.

Released through Top Dog Entertainment (TDE), 'Section 80' became one of the many collaborations between Lamar and the label. In August 2021, the rapper announced he was parting ways with TDE, after one final album. But TDE and 'Section 80' will always hold a special place in fans' hearts. Since the album, he's gone on to appear on the soundtrack of numerous films like 'Black Panther', and 'Creed II', as well as scoop up a Pulitzer Prize


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All that success can be traced back to 'Section 80'. Born from the pain of losing a friend to the criminal justice system, the song has some powerful themes including the drug epidemic and racism, themes that Lamar would often return to in later works. As the internet can't stop gushing over 'Section 80', we thought it was worth diving into the story of the album, and how Lamar ended up composing a "cult classic". 

Recording artist Kendrick Lamar performs on the Samsung Stage during day two at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2016 at Zilker Park on October 1, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (Rick Kern/Getty Images)

The story of 'Section 80'

Lamar began working on the album in January 2011, after a friend of his was sent to jail for 25 years. "He had no guidance and was caught in that negative stigma of our generation that don't care about anything and don't listen to anybody," Lamar told Billboard in a 2011 interview. "Just the fact that's gone from him at such a tender age shows me that we have a lot to go as far as listening and being able to critique ourselves as individuals. That's what 'Section 80' represents," he added.

Over the next few months, Lamar worked on 'Section 80' on the tour bus, and in his mother's kitchen with a purpose. "I always said 'Section 80' was just a warm-up for the story I'm trying to tell, he noted. Often leaving songs unfinished until he was struck by an epiphany hours or days later, Lamar's album was meant to "find answers". To that end, 'Section 80' deals with some of the biggest challenges of the time - racism, the war on drugs, and the perils of poverty.

The result is clear - Lamar is now a household name with a Pulitzer to his name. A decade later, 'Section 80' is still clearly as popular as it once was. Don't take our word for it, here's what social media is saying.

Kendrick Lamar performs onstage at Rihanna's 3rd Annual Diamond Ball at Cipriani Wall Street on September 14, 2017 in New York City.

'Section 80 still in heavy rotation'

The album started trending on Twitter after one user asked others to choose three projects from 2011, leading to a near-universal agreement that 'Section 80' had to be on the list. One fan said, "Section 80 is a cult classic."


One person commented, "Section.80 for sure a gem from that year. On my honorable mention list next to an album they didnt even include." Another replied, "Watch the Throne, Section 80 and House of Balloons. All three are still in heavy rotation for me." A person tweeted, 



The album isn't just widely praised on social media, when it launched it made waves everywhere. In July 2021, the Grammy's noted Lamar "rewired the rap game" with 'Section 80'. Of that there can be little doubt. After all, how many rappers ended up working on cult phenomenons like 'Black Panther' and nab a Pulitzer? 

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