Each and every time when Lamar made it to a new level, he chose to change his stage name. Why? Because of numerous reasons I will dive deep into later in this post. He didn’t just end up in the elite group of writers, he surpassed the hardships of different phases and maneuvered according to his certain rules and regulations. Well, only if we find out more about Kendrick Lamar's nicknames, it will help us to understand more about his secret route to success and his evolutionism by tracing their origin, top secrets behind them and the most important, what they represent.
Kendrick Lamar made remarkable super-moves most people didn’t observe. For him to sit at the top of the mountain, he had to experience the burden and pressure from three different stages, which are core parts of this post.(Don’t worry we will get to this issue)
The Compton-born rapper knew that the only thing to boost his career is by delivering some kind of unique golden content to potential consumers of his music. As usual, like any other musician, you always start from the basement and the basement stage is termed, “The Development phase”. It is on this level where Kendrick chose to use his first nickname “K.Dot. Why did he chose this name?
Stage One – The Development Phase: Kendrick Chose The Alias “K.Dot”
In an interview, Lamar seriously dived into detail about his first pseudonym and how he dealt with the cold atmosphere of this stage. He described his firt character as someone who was warming up to fight a great war in the rap world. He related it to a high school kid / college kid, with an inadequate knowledge about how the world works, a kid who is still learning on how to survive in the world.
K.Dot was that character that was still acquiring wisdom on how to perfectly craft quality lyrical content. At this stage he was forced to put more extra effort, for him to successfully draw the attention of his target audience, for them to be fully aware of his existence.
This is when Lamar had a vision of getting on the mic and dethrone whoever was claimed to be the rap God, so he had to showcase his unique work and art to his competitors and also for him to get a major record deal. It’s not a rumor but a fact that the music world is now packed with thousands and thousands of new / emerging artists, as a result Kendrick knew that he had to develop a path or to find out how to get rid of emerging artists and top competitors strategically.
Expanding the stage one info with a graph (Popularity against time in years), this is the phase where his fan base was growing, but still countable. Therefore, his merchandise or album sales were low, as normal, just like any other emerging artist.
It’s true what they say, if you tirelessly work on somthing, you will land on your dreams. Lamar kept on practicing ambitiously until it was crystal clear that he was one of those underdogs who were able to shake the whole music industry.
Stage two - The On-Peak Phase: He dropped K.Dot To Pick His Birth Name - “Kendrick Lamar”
With “ten thousand hours of practice” he mentioned in the remix of “A Tale of Two Citiez”, Lamar punched the celling, with a mission to surpass the expected level and unexpectedly he settled on top of the highest tower.
He got to that point where he was able to construct and lay down quality content with depth, so he decided to change his first pseudonym to go for his real birth name, the name that he knew it would suit with his new abilities.
At this point he knew how to tactically approach the game, how to experiment with music and merging different genres with rap music, for example, his jazz influenced 2015 project “To Pimp A Butterfly”. He gained experience, with assistance from his mentors Dr. Dre and his TDE colleagues.
Stage Three - The Masters level: Lamar Picked A New Alias, “kung Fu Kenny”
This last phase is that point where the majority started recognizing Lamar as a master, as the overseer or the God of rap music. So he adapted a new alias, “Kung Fu Kenny”, introduced in his music video for “DNA”. Alright, lets first discus where he derived this alias from.
It was based off Don Cheadle’s character (Kenny) in the film Rush Hour 2, that’s the reason why Kendrick picked him for the video. One funny thing about this is, despite Cheadle being featured in the music video, he failed to connect the dots until Lamar premiered a short karate film called “The Damn Legend of Kung Fu Kenny”, at his Coachella headline in 2017.
You might be asking you self this question “why Kendrick chose this Chinese-Like nickname”. Alright let me explain.
The Link Between Chinese Martial Arts and Rap Music: Why Kendrick Lamar Picked The Chinese Name?
Rewinding back to the 1970s, back in those days African-Americans used to obsessively watch karate movies. Why was this happening? In low quality cinemas and TV channels, Kung Fu films were broadcasted repeatedly. Why? Because those were the only movies they could show, they were cheap.
How exactly these karate films made an impact in the black community?
If you follow most of these martial arts movies, 90% of them always use this one concept whereby a poor guy / kid learn kung Fu from a master, in order for that person to fight and defeat a crooked top flight mafia or to go against a corrupt system through fighting.
So they took that concept and applied it in real life situations, where they crafted their own music genre, rap music and used it to fight the oppressor or to go against the system. For them to make a significant impact, top rappers had to promote new rappers. Like Kung Fu, learning how to rap didn’t require a university degree, any kid who was eager to join top flight rappers had to follow and master top emcee’s footsteps.
When Kendrick picked the stage name, "Kung Fu Kenny", he was trying to relate his character to those of the kung Fu masters, to portray his image as the master of rap music, the one who is able to educate new young rappers on how to craft quality content just like his. Well, he really deserve the nickname because of his exceptional art and style.
Stage 4, The birth of OKLAMA
Lets go back to August 20, 2021, conscious-rap fans around the world spared an extra hour for the social media platform, twitter, after Kendrick made a surprise move by tweetimg for the first time after 15 months. The tweet wasn't something that can prompt someone to raise an eyebrow, it was a link to a static website with the word Oklama, a word that caught the eye of the public. Millions clicked the link and they discovered that it was only a small well-written letter, explaining to his fans about the 5 year absence.
He never made an effort to explain the meaning of the word. Fast-Forward to 2022, a year later, Lamar dropped his fifth album, Mr Moral and The Big Steppers. What surprised us again was the continuous usage of the word Oklama throughout the album and again he didn't explain the meaning behind his new alias in any of the songs. Few days later, only one person managed to dug deep, trying to find the meaning.
Dissect Podcast host, Cole Cuchna broke all the codes for him to provide a meaningful hypothesis. Cuchna went on to say: OKLAMA likely Originated from the language of the Choctaw indigenous people,"Chahta Anumpa". OKLA - means "People",
Next is "Ma" - It is used when addressing someone, for instance - "MY LORD" thus the whole phrase meaning is my people.
He also highlighted that the word Oklama is also common within the Choctaw-translation of the bible, it is often used when a poet or a prophet is addressing God's people on behalf of God. Thanks to Cuchna who took his time to give a believable insight but we are all waiting for Kendrick Lamar to provide the true meaning behind the word.