By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Album: good kid, m.A.A.d. city
Release Date: 10/22/12
Clever rhymes, retrospective, yet innovative beats and brutal honesty propel good kid, m.A.A.d. city, the sophomore effort from Compton-based rapper Kendrick Lamar, into pure hip-hop greatness.
Debuting at number 2 on the Billboard’s top 200 chart last October, due partly to the success of lead singles “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and “The Recipe” featuring Dr. Dre, the album struck a chord with a mass audience and made its way onto several year-end best-of lists in magazines and on the internet. Signing with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records, and with an array of highly talented well-known producers including Pharrell Williams, Just Blaze, T-minus and executive producer credits to the Doctor himself, it leaves little to speculate why this album was so well received.
Despite the impressive list of guests and producers, what makes this album so delightful is the impressive story telling ability in Lamar. Few rappers today think in terms of a complete album yet alone a concept album, which good kid, m.A.A.d. city most certainly is. The concept is that of Lamar’s life growing up on the tough streets of Compton. It examines joy, sorrow, success, failure, life, love, sex, drugs, family and faith, all while including dashes of humor along the way.
The album opens with “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter.” Grooving beats, catchy hooks and a hilarious skit consisting of a voicemail from Lamar’s parents populate the opening track. Sherane, a toxic former lover of Lamar’s, is a reocurring figure throughout the album. From there, sick beats and top-notch production continue to pilot Lamar’s beautiful story as he examines the highs and lows of peer-pressure and life growing up in Compton.
Tracks like “The Art of Peer Pressure” and “Poetic Justice” see Lamar facing his demons and giving an honest indication of walking the line between becoming a stereotype and rising above the temptation of peer pressure. The brutal honesty cannot be denied, especially where Lamar examines his faith in contrast to his lifestyle in “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” with the opening line, “I am a sinner, who’s probably gonna sin again, Lord forgive me, Lord forgive me.”
“Swimming Pools,” the album’s lead single, is well equipped with brilliant hooks and a feel-good party vibe. However, there is darkness to the lyrics, as Lamar confesses his struggles with drinking and partying and it preventing him from being where he feels he needs to be. Finally, the album concludes on the trio of darkly lyrical tracks, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” “Real” and “Compton,” indicating a hopeful but broken Kendrick Lamar.
All in all, good kid, m.A.A.d. city could easy be one of the wittiest and lyrically innovative hip-hop albums of the last several years. Backed by some of the best producers the game has to offer, this is a story of triumph over adversity, that doesn’t require someone who’s only from Compton to grasp. It’s a very relatable tale of a young man finding himself and defining himself, in a very honest and beautifully passionate manner. Not since Eminem’s prime or Kanye West’s early records has there been such a concise and honest story-telling hip-hop album.