Album: Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Release Date: 23/10/2012
2012's most conscious rap album explores human emotions and violence to a backdrop of heart stopping beauty
As the “gangsta” tag lugged so audaciously on Hip Hop since it started begins to disappear and replaced by a swathe of brilliantly creative, honest and forward thinking minds (Death Grips, Shabazz Palaces, Danny Brown etc.), few can claim to be as bright or lyrically valuable as Kendrick Lamar. Lamar is a realist- he tells everything exactly like it is. He’s incredibly sharp musically too, always finding new ways to do things, new ways to make things sound. His seemingly effortless ability to match emotion with the most wonderfully paired production is what gives him so much space to pull off an absolute odyssey like “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.”
Throughout its entirety, Kendrick tells a thrilling, depressing, raw and most importantly honest about life growing in that most infamous of American suburbs, Compton. Anyone familiar with Lamar will already know this before hearing the record, but “Good Kid…” is not even a close relative to the sentiments of NWA (although Dr. Dre does appear on the closer “Compton”).
Simultaneously through these 12 tracks Lamar speaks of love, self- loathing, alcoholism, death, violence and religion and shows considerably extensive understanding of all. His well- weathered experiences and outlook on life have allowed him to write some gritty, some heart breaking and some uplifting tales here. This is an album that spans almost all the spheres of human emotion.
The production is absolutely gorgeous throughout, and acts as mood- perfect catalyst for whatever Kendrick is rapping about. On “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” the beat is suitably reflective as lush, replicated guitar chords swirl around and wispy thin layer of synth mist and Kendrick starting from an emotional standpoint as he raps “you don’t know what pain is.” On “Poetic Justice,” the album’s “love” song, a beautiful, sensual and smooth female vocal harmony is bought in and to tug at the heart strings.
At the other end of the spectrum sits the albums’ party track, the hugely audacious “Backseat Freestyle”, with a rumbling low and clashing, crisp cymbal sounds as Lamar steps into a braggadocious, laddish teen as he raps “I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel tower/ so I can fuck the world for 72 hours.”
Lamar’s word play is the crucial element however, not only because he’s a fairly incredible rapper, but because his raw, honest and literal imagery gives you an otherwise inaccessible insight into his mind like not many other rappers can do. Whether he’s addressing weakness on “Good Kid” (“I recognize I’m easy pray, I got eaten alive yesterday”), his alcohol problems on “Swimming Pools” (“All I have left is my new appetite for failure”) or joyous realization as on “I’m Real”, he hits a tantalizing nerve that will more often than not leave a lump in your throat.
There’s not much chance that “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” will be considered a classic in the future. What it definitely is though is the work of a man who, even at a very young age, has had enough experiences to create a rollercoaster ride drenched in storytelling and a very real sense of life in Compton. Lamar’s lyrical and musical sensitivity makes him one of the sharpest, most talented young men in Hip Hop, and it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll run out of ideas anytime soon.
Download: 1) Swimming Pools (Drank), 2) The Art of Peer Pressure, 3) Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe, 4) Backseat Freestyle