Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city
I’ll probably live longer than you and never fade away. I’ll never fade away, I’ll never fade away.
Hailing from the progressive minded Black Hippy collective and scoring points with critics from his 2011 mix-tape “Section.80”, all eyes were on Kendrick and his promising future endeavors. The attention paid off tenfold and now we’re blessed with Kendrick’s debut LP, “good kid, m.A.A.d city”, released with Interscope Records.
Not too often do we get a debut hip-hop record on a major label that lives up to a solid bar of expectation. When it does, it usually marks history in the genre’s culture; making this album something not to be taken with a grain of salt. “good kid, m.A.A.d city” is the greatest hip-hop concept album of this decade. It comes as conflicted and sincere as Kendrick’s advanced psyche and sketches out a disturbingly accurate portrait of hip-hop and street violence culture. However, Kendrick never sets out an agenda of any sort. He follows the ultimate secret of film-making in his concept album, which is to only be concerned in telling a story and letting everything else fall into place.
Throughout the album’s narrative, we see multiple shades of Kendrick’s personality and reactions under certain pressures. Nothing, however, is drawn out to a cinematic depth. The focal point is always the track’s ingredients: beat style, lyrical content, flow rhythm; the personality plays out under serious crunch time.
The track “Backseat Freestyle” is Kendrick’s stab at a balls-out swag rap anthem, a frowned-upon sub-genre, yet hilariously enough, Kendrick strikes gold even with absurdist lyrics like “I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel Tower / So I can fuck the world for 72 hours”. One of the singles, “Swimming Pools (Drank)” is an intelligible and equally catchy song which secretly sketches out the horrors of alcoholism. Following that is the album’s magnum opus “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”: a 12-minute, three-act track featuring the nearly all of the record’s thematic moments, all of which are guaranteed to cause some watery eyes.
In comparison to “Section.80”, we see production details, songwriting and storytelling ability drawn out to greater and bolder extents. Where “Section.80” often told bite-sized, inner monologue stories, featured jazzy samples and experimental song structures, “good kid” is a streamlined effort of traditional hip-hop textures and unique musicianship with the location being Kendrick’s mind and the character Compton, CA.
“good kid, m.A.A.d city” is subtitled as ‘A Short Film: By Kendrick Lamar’, which is exactly what you’re promised. There’s a voice-mail audio clip towards the end of the album of Kendrick Lamar’s mother instructing him to learn some honest life values and when he does, to give back to his city and tell them his story. It’s one of the most evocative moments in hip-hop I’ve heard in years. A sentiment that could cut deep into the hearts of hip-hop storytellers from all eras. This is the true story of Kendrick Lamar. (10/10)
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