Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city

Posted October 22, 2012

After the heralded successes of Overly Dedicated and #Section 80, TDE representer and Dr. Dre protégé Kendrick Lamar will make his Interscope/Aftermath major label debut with the release of good kid, m.A.A.d city. Previously-releases singles "The Recipe," "Swimming Pools (Drank)" and "Compton" will all appear on the LP. Guest features on the 12-track album will include Anna Wise, Dr. Dre, Drake, Jay Rock, Mary J. Blige and MC Eiht.

The album is currently slated to drop on October 22. Until then, keep it locked to The DJBooth for updates and more new music from the album.

good kid, m.A.A.d city Album Review

I’ve heard people say that rappers don’t make classic albums anymore, but the truth is we don’t let rappers make classic albums anymore. As I’ve written before, the definition of a classic album is one that stands the test of time, that sounds as good on its 500th listen as it did on its fifth. But in 2012 we live in a constant state of elective ADHD, jumping from Tweet to meme to album to Instragram to Tumblr to viral video to text to Facebook to the next album. We can barely be bothered to pay attention to U.S. wars for longer than a news report, if that long, so what chance does even the greatest music have? Classic albums are still being made, but we’ve forgotten how to listen to them. Maybe Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city will remind us.

Kendrick Lamar has risen from some Compton kid named K-Dot to Dr. Dre’s protégé and hip-hop’s most acclaimed voice because his music transcends any label. He’s not just a voice of the people, he’s the voice the people wish they could speak in. On his last two independent albums, Overly Dedicated and #Section80, he showed an ability to dive into abstraction without ever losing his grip on reality, to shift his flow and styles in ways that showcased a complete disregard for sounding “cool.” So there was some justified anxiety around his major label release; it wasn’t a question of if Interscope would influence the album, it was a matter of how much. Frankly, I had nightmares involving a Chris Brown hook and a Stargate beat.

Thankfully, the answer appears to be very little. Instead, the only noticeable label influences on GKMC seem to be a higher production budget and the ability to clear a Janet Jackson sample. Speaking of which, Poetic Justice has to be considered the album’s most “radio friendly” offering, if only because of Drake’s presence and the aforementioned smoother-than-smooth sample. It’s a fine track, and certainly doesn’t feel forced, but it’s also one of the album’s weakest because Kendrick sounds the most confined. By contrast, Swimming Pools (Drank) finds Kendrick playing with the genre, taking the binge drinking-friendly environment that’s currently dominating the charts and twisting the formula almost beyond recognition, a method he uses again on Backseat Freestyle. While nearly every rapper alive would have bent over backwards to make that Hit-Boy beat the 2012 version of A Milli, Kendrick takes lyrics that aren’t particularly far from the swaggering norm and delivers them in a voice that flips from verse to verse nearly schizophrenically. Along with the epically-minded Compton, those are GKMC’s solid offerings...

…but I’m only so interested in solid. Really, I’m looking for “oh sh*t!” moments, and semi-title track m.A.A.d. city is an “oh sh*t” moment if I ever heard one. But while the first two minutes of m.A.A.D. city alone would make it eligible for banger of the year, half-way through the song the track completely switches to an equally loud but more laid-back riding tone. Who folds two songs into one track like that? The same guy who folds another two songs into a 12-minute journey like Sing About Me / Dying of Thirst. I’ve heard deeply personal and lyrically complex joints like Sing About Me before, often from Kendrick, but I’ve never heard anyone cut off a verse with gunshots like that before, never heard anyone so openly adopt a female voice like he does on the second verse, never heard anyone then simply allow the vocals on that verse to fade away while rapping about never fading away. And that’s only the first half of the track. It’s original touches like those, along with re-occurring, documentary style local voices that pervade the album, that ultimately make GKMC one of the most powerful representations of inner city life, a life where the wrong answer to “where you from?” can end everything in a moment, you’ll ever hear. The Art of Peer Pressure? Oh sh*t that’s some nice storytelling. Sherane? Oh sh*t that’s a hell of a way to start an album. Sometimes, when the music really does hit you, all you can say it oh sh*t.

There are only three guarantees in life: death, taxes, and people who will say, “good kid, m.A.A.d city is dope, but it isn’t as good as #Section80”, or if they’re feeling particularly ambitious, “…isn’t as good as Overly Dedicated.” (There's got to be at least the one dude saying “this isn’t as good the Kendrick Lamar EP.) Of course, those same people will say Kendrick’s next project isn’t as good as GKMC, and there are two reasons why they’re unable to recognize present greatness in favor of the past. First, they expected Kendrick to deliver the album of the year, so even if he does deliver the album of the year, he’ll have only barely met their expectations; who’s impressed by someone who barely meets their expectations? Second, they’ve built up a bank of memories that are triggered by Kendrick’s previous projects: the nights spent riding around with their boys banging Michael Jordan, the hours they spent trying to rap along to Rigamortis. But when they listen to GKMC and search for some memory, they come up empty. That’s not Kendrick’s problem, it’s your problem, it’s our problem. He’s given us all he could possibly give us; an album worthy of being called a classic. Now it’s up to you to make it a classic. It’s up to you to keep listening next week, next month and next year. It’s up to you to play Sing About Me until you understand it’s every nuance. It’s up to you to build new memories, classic memories, tied to good kid, m.A.A.d city – all I can do is help by ending this review now and urging to you listen, and keep listening.

DJBooth Rating - 5 Spins

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Posted October 22, 2012
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