Over the course of hip-hop history, many rappers have been discovered through their striking lyrics, explicit language, and the stories they share. Today, the next rapper to join that group of great historical rappers is Kendrick Lamar. After debuting his first hip hop record Section.80, which received a lot of acclaim but only some recognition, Kendrick returns with his new, excellent follow-up record good kid, m.a.a.d city. A lot of what Section.80 doesn’t have is what Kendrick’s new album does have and more – his story. Kendrick grew up in the ghetto of Compton, CA, living with intrusive parents and hanging with dangerous gangs. The subtitle to good kid, m.a.a.d city, “A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar,” refers to the interludes at the end of each track, containing dialogue and voicemail recordings of his mother, father, and a series of gangs. This idea helps make Kendrick’s album more authentic and down-to-earth. The title, good kid, m.a.a.d. city, even evokes an essence of deprived childhood, a dangerous lifestyle, religion, and misfortune. Kendrick Lamar transcends into his story through dark, religious undertones (the haunting first track, “Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter” and the genius “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”), as well as freestyling dark humor (the outlandish yet brilliant “Backstreet Freestyle” and the R&B mix “The Art of Peer Pressure). The next two tracks both blend true diverse music and symbolize the excellence in sampling music: “Money Trees,” which features rapper Jay Rock, utilizes a great sample from alt-indie rock band Beach House’s “Silver Soul” off their 2010 album Teen Dream. It then segues into “Poetic Justice,” a soulful homage to Janet Jackson’s hit song “Any Time, Any Place” from her 90s album, janet. It also features fantastic rhymes from acclaimed rapper Drake. As an art form, rap helps two or more artists join forces and both “Money Trees” and “Poetic Justice” epitomize the elegant art of collaboration. The next two tracks literally represent the title of Kendrick’s sophomore album: “good kid” is a simple storytelling of some of Kendrick’s childhood life and “m.A.A.d. city” is a more aggressive and complex rap, providing featured vocals from Compton legend MC Eiht. Both these songs, with their style, transition, and opposing views, effectively symbolize the separation and detachment of Kendrick’s early life, which is a true highlight in the album. The next two songs also connect, one to the other, and involve the struggles with urges and depression: the luminous and evocative “Swimming Pools (Drank)” is almost similar to Kendrick’s first acclaimed single, “A.D.H.D.” from Section.80 – both discussing the troubles and dangers of partying, alcohol, and sex; and the 12-minute anthem “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” may be long for some listeners, but shows Kendrick’s complex and attention-grabbing arrangement of his life story. The last two tracks off good kid, m.a.a.d city vary in captivation and conviction: “Real,” featuring soft vocals from Anna Wise, is a real Kendrick song – it supplies a subtle, poignant beat, matching perfectly with Kendrick’s lyrics. It may be the slowest and hardest to listen to (other than his 12-minute track), but it’s worth listening to, at least for a while; the last track, “Compton,” contains great material, especially from the bold, old school NWA rap icon Dr. Dre, but it should add more to complete an already great album. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it doesn’t shine as much as the other tracks, therefore making it a mediocre album closer.
We learn a lot from Kendrick’s history on good kid, m.a.a.d city, which is why it should become a rap classic – it contains gripping and mesmerizing lyrics, unique and powerful beats, and, as every rap album should, a story expressing what Kendrick really wants to rap about. good kid, m.a.a.d city is an almost perfect and almighty album, evoking themes of childhood, struggles, and faith. This will definitely lead Kendrick’s life to happiness and hopefully away from the one he raps about.
Suggested Tracks: “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Backstreet Freestyle,” “Money Trees,” “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
Also, enjoy Kendrick’s new, exclusive J Cole-produced single “The Jig Is Up (Dump’n)“