Album Review: Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
Ever since he released Overly Dedicated, Kendrick Lamar has remained one of my favorite rappers in today’s game. His unique, raw delivery only amplifies the power of his lyrical style, and the stories he brings from his hometown of Compton, California have helped anoint Lamar as the next icon of gangster rap.
After his first studio album, Section.80, garnered critical acclaim, Lamar released his highly anticipated second album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, earlier this week. The album is a collection of narratives with Lamar as the storyteller, weaving his genuine vocal style and impeccable flow between a variety of masterfully produced instrumentals – some with a nostalgic 70′s feel and others reminiscent of the 90′s hip-hop era home to many of the genre’s legends, such as Lamar’s mentor, Dr. Dre. Creative skits and the clever use of an old voicemail from Lamar’s parents give flavor to the album, illustrating memories from Lamar’s upbringing in the gritty southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The album’s likely radio hit, “Poetic Justice,” samples Janet Jackson’s “Any Time, Any Place” and features mainstream superstar Drake, providing an attractive, uplifting rap-sonnet that perfectly utilizes each rappers vocal and lyrical talents.
After seeing Lamar perform live in San Antonio, I gained a whole new appreciation for the rapper – and I was already a fan. The early released single, “Swimming Pools,” drowned the crowd in a tale of a struggle with drinking and alcoholism, “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” had the entire venue vibin’ over lyrics of independence, pain, and responsibility, and “Money Trees” maximized Lamar’s well known line, “Halle Berry or halleluyah,” sending the entire audience into a frenzy. Unfortunately, I missed out on one of my personal favorites from the album, “The Art of Peer Pressure.” The track utilizes a classic 90′s R&B beat with a vinyl scratch layover, before transitioning into a more traditional underground instrumental, where Lamar goes off, retelling stories of “shenanigans” with a crisp delivery and precise rhythm. The song showcases Lamar’s expansive talents and closes out on a recording of a conversation between Lamar and “homies,” adding to the authenticity of his masterpiece album. A one-minute freestyle provided a fitting capstone to an outstanding performance, putting the finishing touches on a show that proved two things: Kendrick Lamar has arrived and he’s not stopping anytime soon. The entire crowd knew almost every word to every song Lamar performed, and the album has only been out a week – if that’s not a dedicated fan base, then I don’t know what is.
Once again, Kendrick Lamar proves worthy of the title as the “savior of West Coast hip-hop” – Snoop and Dre, the torch has been successfully passed.