‘Good kid,’ Better Album
Fresh off his Shocktoberfest debut, headlining the BET Music Matters Tour and a big win at the BET awards for Lyricist of the Year, the kid repping Compton, Kendrick Lamar, is experiencing a great year, and his latest album “good kid, m.A.A.d city” is the cherry on top.
“Good kid” has it all: drugs, alcohol, violence, gangs, sex, love, religion, politics — you name it. What sets the album apart from most contemporary rap albums is Lamar’s use of hip hop to cinematically tell a story about young life — his life, growing up — in a dangerous city with all the odds stacked against him. He paints this picture for us, entailing his background as a good kid in a city wrought with bad influences, from alcohol and drugs to his own friends and family among institutions of racial and social inequality.
“Good kid” opens with “Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter,” a self-reflective joint dealing with love, lust and teenage temptation. The track is framed by a Corinthian prayer — harkening back to Lamar’s critically acclaimed “Section.80” — and dialogue that directly places listeners on the streets with Lamar. On following tracks “B*tch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” and “m.A.A.d city,” Lamar plays with hip hop conventions, switching up POV’s and voice inflection to convey marginalized voices and emotions in the rap world — women and vulnerability respectively.
Another strong aspect of the album is the features: Lamar gets some help from Drake on “Poetic Justice” and Jay Rock, fellow rapper of the collective Black Hippy, kills it on “Money Trees.” Lamar teams up with powerhouse producer Just Blaze and the legendary Dr. Dre — who, after much speculation, recently signed Lamar to his Aftermath label — on the hard-hitting West coast track “Compton.” To top off this impressive roster, the talented producer-singer Pharrell Williams draws up the standout title track, “good kid.”
“Swimming Pools (Drank),” another standout track on the album that had ’Eaters going crazy at Shocktoberfest, is surrounded by much hype and for good reason. On the surface, T-Minus supplies a hypnotizing beat that allows for effortless flow by Lamar. Dig a little deeper and we are presented with a song about alcoholism, party mentality and subtle nihilism. Lamar even raps as his own conscience at one point, speaking to the torment one faces when choosing between having a good time and getting stuff done. Sound familiar?
“Good kid” shines as a string of pearls, weaving together scenes from Lamar’s life for our listening pleasure. Ironically, Kendrick is anything but a kid on this album — at the ripe age of 25, he spits with the wisdom and worldly insight of a man twice his age.
The album acts as a wake-up call to our generation, posing questions and seeking answers regarding the future of hip hop in the American musical canon. It’s important to think past the acronym — supposedly “made me an Angel on Angel dust” — and think about some of the larger ideas Lamar is getting at here. On the surface, hip hop can be one thing, but it comes to stand for so much more when employed by powerful and political rappers like Lamar, that boast arsenals readily equipped to create art.
Lamar acts as a potential pioneer of this impending hip hop revolution, expanding the bounds of what hip hop can, and should be. There is so much more to be said about this album, and I hope Lamar gets some well-deserved recognition. I’m going to go out on a limb here and dub “good kid, m.A.A.d city” the best hip hop album of 2012 and possibly one of the best albums of the year overall. Lamar is going places, and sky’s the limit for the incredible storyteller.
Rating: 5 out of 5