Oct 29, 2012 @ 6:00
“good kid, m.A.A.d city is unlike any major label rap album I’ve heard in a very long time. Kendrick Lamar has delivered a captivating narrative of his life, effortlessly captured on 12-tracks. There are no radio singles, filler tracks or unnecessary features on the album.”
Despite what Rick Ross may want you to believe, it is Kendrick Lamar and not Meek Mill that released the most highly anticipated debut album of the year. The Compton native has quietly been making a name for himself, thanks to his critically acclaimed Section .80 LP, released last year independently through Top Dawg Ent.
A lot has changed for Kendrick in the past twelve months and with the major label backing of Interscope Records behind him, Kendrick presents us with his major label debut album, aptly titled good kid, m.A.A.d city.
The tone of the album is set with the opening track ‘Sherane A.K.A. Master Splinter’s Daughter,’ which starts with a tape recorder rewinding to a scene of a group of young men in prayer. This is an interlude before the actual track starts, and the medium Kendrick uses to tell his story; cleverly attaching them to the beginning and end of tracks as not to break up the flow of the album. This is not a typical rap album. With the exception of two tracks, the entire album’s storyline is told through the view of a 17-year-old Kendrick Lamar growing up in post-riot Los Angeles.
From rapping about his sexual escapades with the ‘hoodrat’ Sherane on the intro and the Drake-assisted ‘Poetic Justice’, to dreams of getting money with his homies on ‘Money Trees’, and run-ins with the law on ‘Art Of Peer Pressure’ and ‘good kid’. Kendrick paints a vivid picture of his life and the struggle growing up as a good kid, surrounded by all the violence, drugs and bad influences present in Compton.
The tracks have intricately been linked together, and many casual listeners may not realise this. On ‘m.A.A.d city’ featuring MC Eiht, Kendrick raps about taking a security job in order to break into a house, which is one of the acts he gets up to in ‘Art of Peer Pressure’. This kind of interlinking between songs happens quite often and is a key aspect of the album’s storyline. On ‘Sing about Me’, Kendrick is at his brilliant best, rapping from the viewpoints of those who die (gangsters) and fade away (prostitutes) in the mad city, with each if his three verses from a different person’s perspective.
‘Compton’ and ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe’ are the only tracks that aren’t delivered from 17-year-old Kendrick’s perspective. On the latter Kendrick addresses his desire to stay true to himself despite all the fame, professing “I’m trying to keep it alive and not compromise the feeling we love / You’re trying to keep it deprived and only co-sign what radio does”. ‘Compton’ which features Dr. Dre is essentially the credits of the album, as the short film ends on the previous track ‘Real’ with Kendrick finally realising that being real is about more than being repected as a gangster. The tape recorder stops and rewinds back to the beginning before Dr. Dre makes his appearance on the Just Blazed-produced ‘Compton’ which announces the arrival of King Kendrick.
Despite having Interscope in his corner, Kendrick decided to keep features to a minimum, with Drake, Jay Rock and Mc Eiht being the only contributors. The Production on good kid, m.A.A.d city is exceptionally well chosen. ‘Backseat Freestyle’ (Hit-Boy), ‘m.A.A.d. city interlude’ (Sounwave) and ‘Compton’ (Just Blaze) aside, they all play second fiddle to Kendrick and his lyrical ability, enabling him to tell his story without any distractions.
good kid, m.A.A.d city is unlike any major label rap album I’ve heard in a very long time. Kendrick Lamar has delivered a captivating narrative of his life, effortlessly captured on 12-tracks. There are no radio singles, filler tracks or unnecessary features on the album. Every track feels like an integral part of the storyline which plays off as a short film about a good kid growing up in a mad city.
The brilliance of the album lies in the story, and it’s this story that creates an instant connection with the listener. good kid, m.A.A.d city has been compared to Nas’ classic debut ’Illmatic’ and while I believe that it is worthy of being labelled a ‘classic’, only time will tell if it will be remembered as such.
Written by Ashraf Stakala (@ASHownsCHEKA)