In every generation there comes along a leading figure, a future pioneer, a catalyst that helps push Hip-Hop to new heights. Rakim, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, 2pac, Biggie Smalls, OutKast, Nas, Jay-Z and 50 Cent are just a few that helped shape this great genre we all know and love. In my opinion, people like Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, T.I., J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar are the new “legends” that we’ll talking about some 15-20 years from now. The latter of those new rappers named is a young 25 year old kid from Compton, California. He made a name for himself as most artist these days on the mixtape scene. He released 2 highly acclaimed projects that solidified his name among the new rap elite. In fact, he made so much noise that long time west coast legend and hip-hop royalty Dr. Dre signed Kendrick to his Aftermath Records imprint. However, this did not change Kendrick’s work ethic or drive. Something about him is different, something about him screams eccentric; I hate to put so much pressure on such a young kid, but being that I’m from California, I can’t help but think he is the second coming of, dare I say it… . No, let’s not go that far, Kendrick is Kendrick and we don’t need comparisons. Many of us met him as a teenager when he went by the name K.Dot. Regardless of when you picked up on him, I’m sure the outcome was the same. His music spoke to you as a listener and made you feel a certain way. You got a sense that his music was in the truest, rawest form and it came from the heart. Now, before you listened to his highly anticipated major label debut, one can only wonder just how much Kendrick is willing to pour out. Is his soul going to be the soundtrack that is Kendrick Lamar‘s life? He titled the album good kid m.A.A.d city; it is supposed to be a guide into the chaotic life he lived on the streets of Compton. I am sure it will be vivid and very explicit, however my question is, does he paint the same ole gang infested lifestyle or does he help us see a new perspective on this infamous m.A.A.d. city we have heard so much of.
I want to review this album a little different than I have others in the past. It is extremely conceptual and very story line heavy as the title states. So let’s get into it right away…
First of all, the album revolves around a few significant events a young Kendrick had in his home town of Compton. In my opinion it was almost a real life version of “Boyz in The Hood” where Kendrick is looking poke on a young vixen he met at a house party. On his way to smash, he is run up by 2 dudes who jump him for being in the wrong area. As Kendrick and his homies look to retaliate forcefully, the unfortunate happens leaving one of Kendrick’s friends’ brothers dead from a fatal gun shot. They take an oath of salvation since their actions and the tragic killing of another one of Compton’s youth becomes a victim of Gang Violence. It gives a very personal and vivid look at what K.Dot had to endure as a kid in his home town.
The first track introduces us to the source of all evil “Sherane,” Kendrick’s vixen during the installment. He tells the story of how they met and how he is driven by lust to her crib late one night for a quick booty call. His story telling in this first track gives the listeners a vivid starting point and grabs their attention from the jump. The eerie echo sets a dark mood right away, guitar chords add to the somber feel. Shortly after, the hard knocking drums and snares complete the production, and Kendrick receives a call from his Mother and Father who add a little joking feel to the album that is greatly needed. The Voice-mail leads beautifully into the next track.
As Kendrick’s Father vibes out to his soulful oldies he says “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” and that’s just how you feel while listening to this second track. It is one of my favorites and has a chance to be a smash hit for the young emcee. Kendrick is at his musical best here. Flow is on point the production is high pace and is snare and guitar heavy. It is definitely a “f*ck the haters” type joint that one could bump driving down the block or just vibin’ out at home. The hook is catchy and you find yourself in a complete zone within the first few seconds of the song. “They waiting on Kendrick like the 1st and 15th”, pointing to just how much anticipating the album has received over the last 18 months.
The next track we hear that Kendrick and his homies are riding around Compton with Kendrick kicking a “Backseat Freestyle”. Although, K. Dot destroys the track, I can’t help but feel that this one track is a bit out of place. It is a reminder of just how diverse Kendrick’s flow is and just how much force he can have in anyone given track. The beat, for me is “A Milli” type of sound and it just rock well with me. I’m sure many people will love the hard hitting drums and the aggressive delivery, however for me this could have been given away and left off the final product.
“The Art of Peer Pressure” is next up and it gives the listener a look into why Kendrick is considered such a great story teller. He paints such a candid and elaborate picture of his homies riding around the mean streets of Compton. He shares why he doesn’t smoke much, mainly do to an early encounter with a laced up joint. He also gives details into how he was influenced as a youth by some of his closest friends. Hence the title “Peer Pressure,” it explains how even a good kid can be influenced to do things out of his character. The smooth and mellow beat only adds to the amazing flow and display how great a lyricist K. Dot is. It instantly reminded me of the old Outkast track by a similar name.
The Jay Rock assisted “Money Trees” is up next and it is all about the desire to get out of the hood and make something of themselves. So the most part it is a slight step away from the “who” concept of GKMC, but it is such a good song that it fits well. The hook is catchy, the beat knocks in your ride and even Rock comes through and smashes out a gem of a verse. All in all this is one of my favorite joints from the album.
You have to have something for the ladies, and the Drake assisted “Poetic Justice” is just that. It address the vixen that Kendrick is so desperately looking to get involved with for me, because of the quality of the other album cuts it is the weakest on the album. I like the mellow feel and the switch in content; however it just seems like another typical track done by Drake. I know there are fans of the song, and I agree it is good, but with so many gems I will gladly skip this song from time to time. Scoop Deville on the track is a nice change of pace, but the song just doesn’t sit well with me… Sorry ladies.
We all saw the picture of Skate Board P and K.Dot in the lab some while back, now “Good Kid” could easily be from that session. It tells the tale of Kendrick doing his best to stay a good kid but being negatively influenced by his surroundings. To me the beat is a little lack luster, but Kendrick’s flow and subject matter really makes this a great song. It took me a few listens to get with it, but by no means is up in the top five listens for the entire album. It is a great lead into the next track which happens to be the next part of the album title.
I have to say that this track, “m.A.A.d. city,” is in my top 3 as far as this album is concerned. The Compton’s Most Wanted Legend Mc Eiht helps with the second part of the song. It is aggressive high tempo and just in your face. TDE in house producer Soundwave does a great job of working with Terrance Martin to craft an amazing beat. I found myself wanting to spazz out on someone, and just be violent. It deals with the anger and gang violence K.Dot was surrounded with. His flow on this track alone makes me joyful as to see what this Good Kid will have in store for the next few years to come.
After getting jumped by two gang members, Kendrick is given a bottle of liquor to wash away some of the pain. The song is “Swimming Pools,” which is a negative look at how drinking can lead to depression and the simple burden it has on intercity citizens. Kendrick talks about his personal demons as well as those faced by people around him. T-minus is crazy on the beat, and it’s a sure fire hit since it is still eating up air ways around the country. I especially love the extended version, because it brings in a different feel with the rockish type sound that is introduced at the end of the track.
”Sing About Me” is the first part of the song where Kendrick is rapping from his homie Dave, who’s brother was killed in the story, perspective. He talks about is gang roots and how he thanks Kendrick for his passion and drive. The second verse is from the point of view of Keysha’s sister. This is for older listeners who heard Section.80, it again tells the story of a young woman affected by her surroundings and being brought down by her inability to protect herself from the demons around her. Finally, Kendrick is introspective and let’s loose on how he feels about his hood and what he does and doesn’t like about his experiences. The second half of the song “Dying of Thirst,” is just a perspective view of how Kendrick is about to turn his life around and stay on the right path thanks to a few vivid experience. I truly feel that this is one of the best songs on the album, because it is 2 in 1 and is just so intelligent and complex.
”Real” is a recap of how people perceive the word REAL. The beat again isn’t my favorite and it was one of the few songs I didn’t like. I listened to the words and the message that Kendrick’s parents give him, and it makes me have a greater appreciation for the track. His passion and message in the song make it that much better. I can’t help but be a fan of this one as well because it is pointing the finger at shallow and simple people who focus on the wrong things rather than living a positive life.
”Compton” has a where he is now type concept. Since Kendrick was able to stay away from the negative aspects that surround him early on in life, he was able to make it out of his hood and link up with the good Doctor. This Just Blaze produced gem is Dre and Kendrick going back and forth about how great their city is and how no matter what negatives were around they still and will for ever call Compton home.
There are several bonus tracks, most of them have been heard, the one that stuck out to me however was “Black Boy Fly.” It just talk about a few major figures in Compton which Kendrick looked at and fear they would be the last to make it out of the m.A.A.d. city. Game the rapper and NBA star Aaron Afflalo. Kendrick was at one point bitter, but turned that into motivation and used it as fuel to make it out of his city. Dawaun Parker, who is an in-house producer for Aftermath is on the introspective beat and adds to the already amazing wordplay and flow by K.Dot.
I want to give this a 10, but can’t because of a few minor issues, “Backseat Freestyle,” “Real” and “Poetic Justice.” Although the body of work as a whole is amazing these songs didn’t fit for me and even though they are great songs, I just skip them almost every time through the album. I feel that this album is by far the best debut I have ever heard, and that includes some of the greats, and the reason for that is because this is Kendrick’s album. It isn’t the labels or it isn’t some shit put together to try and sell records. It is the mans story, it is his life. It is personal and heartfelt, it talks about setback and tragedies, fond memories and things he wishes he could change. I have to compare it to a movie, not even a short film, a full length feature movie. It made me feel like I was living it, it made me FEEL all sorts of emotions, and if music has that kind of affect on a listener it has to be ridiculous. I want to thank Kendrick, I want to thank TDE and Dre, for letting the artist be the artist. For letting him show his true colors and just being real to his fans. It is so nice to get an album that the artist wants to put out and not be worried about selling records or getting air play. Kendrick’s main concern was bringing his story to life and showing the world his experiences. Yes, it was a similar story that many have shared, about a gang infested hood that was hard to live through, but the way in which he told it was so unique it overshadows the rest. The album is nearly perfect. I think it is the best album this year and I think that you should go buy a copy of it to show the Good Kid, that his m.A.A.d City crafted one hell of a rapper named Kendrick Lamar.
Review by Edgar Gomez (@MrEdgo) for Defsounds.com