- good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar Label: Top Dawg / Aftermath / Interscope Release Date: October 22nd 2012
First impressions are absolutely everything, and while Kendrick Lamar has shined on the underground stage for a long-time with multiple projects – it’s the first major project that can set the stage for your career. 2011′s Section.80 played a major part in Kendrick Lamar’s development as an artist and propelled him to one of the lead independent acts before he was scooped up by Aftermath and Interscope Records. Kendrick Lamar now accepts the pressures of releasing an album with the world watching, and joined by Dr. Dre, Pharrell, Hit-Boy, Drake, MC Eiht, Mary J. Blige, T-Minus, among others – he feeds off of it to create one of the best albums of the year, good kid, m.A.A.d city.
“Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter” opens up the album, with good kid Kendrick relaying the story of how he has seemingly fell for the young lady, Sherane – a tale relate-able to any teenager. Emotions and vivid wishes of sex is eventually cut short when he notices her standing with two hooded fellas at her door step – a critical moment of how this entire album plays out. We’re interrupted by a voice mail by Kendrick Lamar’s parents, a comedic interlude which more than anything brings the Polaroid wrinkled album cover to life while still reminding us of the ‘kid’ nature of things.
As the story commences, two early standouts in “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Backseat Freestyle” pump some incredible vibes into the album. The former, an anthem echoing sentiments we’ve all felt before as Kendrick Lamar further explains his role in hip hop. The latter, a much more ballsy record. “Backseat Freestyle” produced by Hit-Boy is the theme of the unraveling of this g.o.o.d kid by the m.A.A.d city, truly feeling like he’s relatively untouchable. The ever manipulated flow of Kendrick Lamar is on full display upon this excellent, raw, chain-flossing, 40′s sipping backdrop as raps ” I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel Tower, So I can fuck the world for 72 hours.”
The m.A.A.d city continues to take control in “The Art of Peer Pressure.” Kendrick opts to embrace the hood life with the “homies” narrated by Jeezy’s first album instead of keeping to his good kid nature. “I got the blunt in my mouth / Usually I’m drug-free, but shit I’m with the homies.” Kendrick masterfully utilizes the interludes post-track as a supporting narrative to his flawless storytelling through his rhymes. Each skit comes through almost as vivid as a motion picture to further the story of the album.
“Poetic Justice”, an oh-so sumptuous record owes it’s full aura to the heavy sample of Janet Jackson’s “Anytime, Anyplace” as Kendrick locks into the relationship between Sherane and himself – revealing that everything leading up to now has been the prelude to the opening number. He capitalizes with the lone commercial feature from Drake – whose own brand of poetry only adds more credibility to the soft spoken track. However, the track may not be as strong as we’d like it to given the two parties involved – leaning more towards cliche rather than compelling. But it appears his world is flipped upside down upon reaching the introspective dual title tracks, “good kid” and “m.A.A.d city”. The story leads into a grim climax, which eventually leads into the 13 minute opus , “Real” in which through the darkness of the previous events, he eventually finds himself and realizes her has a bigger purpose in life. The closing track, “Compton” is the new Kendrick Lamar on full display – but compared to the rest of the LP, it falls incredibly flat.
Kendrick Lamar continues to prove his worth as one of the premier lyricists of this generation, as he’s able to weave through different productions with his chameleon-esque versatile delivery. The minimal features on the LP prove more impressive than disheartening, because while we’d all like the collaborations with Nas, Eminem, Jay-Z – the presence of TDE’s Jay Rock Anna Wise, and west coast figure MC Eiht aid the atmosphere of the track, especially Jay Rock’s verse on “Money Trees.”
Kendrick Lamar’s made a strong case for album of the year with this record, within any genre. Good kid, m.A.A.d city doesn’t remind us of too many rap albums that have come before it, but instead of cult classics like Menace to Society and Boyz In The Hood – which have told amazing stories while relaying to the world the hood’s own epidemics featuring gang warfare, drugs, and murder. Despite being one of more popular newcomers to the table, Kendrick Lamar makes a conscious attempt to stray away from making an album to kick down doors commercially. Instead, complete with excellent storytelling and sprinkled with several minor nuances, he weaves a cohesive, compelling project worthy of going down as a classic in hip hop.