Album Review: Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city
If you’ve gone on the internet in the past two years, I’m sure you’ve at least heard the name Kendrick Lamar. Last week his much anticipated major debut was released and has been talked about over and over while receiving critical acclaim. good kid, m.A.A.d city is Kendrick’s sophomore album, and it’s a follow up to his independent release Section.80 which dropped in the summer of 2011. I was a huge fan of Section.80,and it wasn’t long after I started listening to it that I realized Kendrick’s lyrical ability – especially when it comes to storytelling. Section.80 was a concept album, and good kid, m.A.A.d city follows in the same foot steps; I was very happy he didn’t let go of that style of music with this album.
Lyrically this album is pretty damn good. Kendrick’s flows all sound great, and his lyrics are on point track after track. Some of the tracks can sound really shallow; however, you have to realize that Kendrick plays an array of different characters throughout GKMC. There were a few tracks off of this album that came out before the album’s official release, and they include “The Art of Peer Pressure”, “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, “Backseat Freestyle” and “Compton”, but none of these tracks show their true meaning until you can listen to the entire album and get a look at the bigger picture. The production on this album is very functional – for lack of a better word. At first, I would have said it wasn’t anything special, but with more listens, I like it better and better. The feel of each track’s beat fits with the overall feel of what Kendrick has to say. The sounds of the beats change greatly depending on the feel of the lyrics and the overall mood of the track.
The opening track on this album is “Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter.” It has this dark, nocturnal feel to it, and it’s about Kendrick meeting this girl named Sherane and his feelings towards her as their relationship develops. Most of the track is about his drive over to her place, and how determined he is to hook up with her, but he also mentions that he thinks it’s much deeper than sex. Sherane is definitely a recurring character through this album, and it becomes apparent how much Kendrick likes her. The voicemail at the end of the track leads right into the next track – which happens with most of the tracks on the album.
The second track, “Bitch, Don’t Kill my Vibe,” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Although a lot of the tracks on this album are talking about Kendrick’s life while he was growing up, this one seems to be about his current self. He talks about his fame, where he sees his career and message going, and how important his music is to him.
When I was talking about a track that seems shallow on the surface earlier, “Backseat Freestyle” was the song that I was specifically referring to. With lines like “I pray my dick gets big as the Eiffel Tower, so I can fuck the world for 72 hours”, it’s easy to see why somebody could think it seems shallow; however, once you hear the voicemail before the track starts and the subsequent track, you realize it’s Kendrick imitating his younger self freestyling and having fun in the backseat of a car with his friends.
“The Art of Peer Pressure” is the deeper side to “Backseat Freestyle.” On this track Kendrick is talking about hanging out with his friends who kind of successfully see themselves living a gangster lifestyle. It’s almost an interior monologue with Kendrick explaining that he’s having fun on the outside doing these things he wouldn’t normally do, (drugs, running up on people, robbing houses) but inside he knows it really isn’t him.
This leads to a track with Kendrick fantasizing about money coming his way – “Money Trees”. It’s another one of my favorite cuts from the album. He talks about being young with his friends and how making money is all that they cared about. This track goes back and forth on the positive and negative ways to make money; Kendrick talks about how they would dream of living a rapper’s life, but at the same time, they would dream about the violence and drug activity people around him used to make money. Jay Rock came through on this track with one of my favorite verses on the album. He did an incredible job of illustrating selling drugs to make money and the negative lifestyle that accompanies criminal activity.
“Poetic Justice” is the love song on this album. With more listens it becomes clear this track relates back to the first, and Kendrick is talking about Sherane. Drake has a guest verse on this track, and while I’m not really a fan of Drake, this is the type of track he belongs on. The track ends with Kendrick getting jumped by Sherane’s cousins – who he mentioned were gang bangers in the first track.
“good kid” and “m.A.A.d city” are two of the most genius tracks on this album. After getting jumped, Kendrick snaps out of this money and love fantasy, and he jumps into a sobering reality. “good kid” talks about the death of Kendrick’s uncle, and how although he wasn’t in a gang, he was racially profiled by police and often treated like he was involved with gang activity. “m.A.A.d city” looks at the same issues in more of a retrospective angle. Something I want to point out which I found very interesting is while Kendrick is rapping about a younger version of himself on this track, he changes his voice to sound higher pitched and is almost cracking. I’m not sure if it comes out of emotion, or if he was trying to sound like his pubescent self, but it is definitely chilling.
“Swimming Pools (Drank)” came out long before the album, and I wasn’t really a fan at first. As time went on it definitely grew on me, and I feel like it has a very fitting place in this album. Kendrick talks about how different people use alcohol in different ways, and the track ends with his friends shooting up a group of guys. What comes next? The deepest track on the album.
I feel like I can’t do “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst” enough justice through words; it’s something you truly have to hear for yourself. The amount of thought that Kendrick put into this track is incredible. Kendrick plays a couple different characters in this track: The first verse shows him rapping from his friend’s point of view who is involved with gang activity and violence, and in the second verse, he spits from a prostitutes’ perspective, and even references “Keisha’s Song” from Section.80. In my opinion, this song is the masterpiece of the album, and it really shows Kendrick’s lyrical and creative talent.
The last track of the story Kendrick has to tell is called “Real”. Basically, it’s about the distorted perspective that Compton gave his friends about what a “real” person is and what he thinks a “real” person is. The track ends with Kendrick’s parents leaving him a voicemail, and it shows how family values kept Kendrick a good kid in a mad city.
The last track on the album – “Compton” – is like the credits to the movie. If you think of this album as a movie, this track would be the song that rolls though the end credits, and it is a celebration of Kendrick making it in the music business.
This is a great album, and if you appreciate hip hop music you can’t deny the talent behind it. Kendrick Lamar has proved himself to be a great lyricist while maintaining a message in his music. I was looking forward to this album many months before it’s release, and I can confidently say it did not let me down.