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Rappers Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre share many things in common, including their hometown of Compton, their years of experience in the music industry, and their love for Tupac Shakur. But long before they shared the Super Bowl halftime show stage together, Lamar looked up to both Dre and Tupac as they ruled over Compton hip-hop in the 1990s.

Kendrick Lamar wearing a jacket on stage
Kendrick Lamar | Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Kendrick Lamar grew up in Compton

Like Dr. Dre before him, Kendrick Lamar grew up in Compton, California; they even graduated from the same high school. Dre first burst onto the scene in the late 1980s as a part of the popular rap group N.W.A. The group parted ways in the early ’90s and Dre pursued his own solo career. His breakout album The Chronic was released in 1992.

Lamar was five years old when The Chronic came out, and Dre became a hero and celebrity for Compton practically overnight. Dre’s debut came a year after Tupac released his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now.

When Lamar rose to fame in the early 2010s, many viewed him as the rapper meant to carry on the legacy of Compton rap from the 1990s. His breakout album good kid, m.A.A.d. city and his 2015 follow-up To Pimp a Butterfly was lauded for its raw and real depiction of life in Compton today — something that Dre, Tupac, and other artists of their day didn’t shy away from.

Kendrick Lamar watched Dr. Dre and Tupac film ‘California Love’

As someone who grew up in Compton, Lamar admired both Dre and Tupac. He was even lucky enough to witness the two working together when he was just a child.

He spoke about getting to see Dre and Tupac in an interview on the Chicago radio show The Morning Riot in 2012, when he was a hot new rapper himself. He watched the two legendary rappers work together filming the music video for their song “California Love” on the streets of Compton during the popular Compton Swap Meet.

“I was in Compton and they were shooting the first version of it,” Lamar recalled. “They stopped right in front of the middle of the street and just wanted to mingle with the people. My pops had seen them and came back to the house and got me. My father went to the house to get me and put me on his shoulders to watch them shoot.”

He knew at that moment that hip-hop was something that he wanted to be involved with. “Subconsciously, down the line, after seeing that, it sparked something, because I always kept thinking about that moment.”

Years later, Lamar followed in Dre and Tupac’s footsteps and filmed the music video for his song “King Kunta” at the Compton Swap Meet.


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Kendrick Lamar performed alongside Dr. Dre in their hometown

Now, three decades after Dr. Dre and Tupac’s debuts and a decade since Lamar’s breakout, the two music icons came together for a Super Bowl halftime show that hip-hop fans won’t forget any time soon. They performed in Inglewood, California, just a few miles away from their hometown of Compton, sharing the stage with Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, and Eminem.

For many hip-hop fans, the Super Bowl halftime show symbolized a formal passing of the torch from Dre to Lamar.