After the release of his independent album “Section .80? last year, Lamar has risen to fame and captured the attention of plenty, including legendary hip-hop mogul Dr. Dre. Originally from Compton as well, Dr. Dre signed Lamar to his music label, Aftermath Records, and nurtured him through the process of fame.
Lamar enters hip-hop with a much deeper meaning than recently popular southern trap and swag rap artists. Known for his lyrics and conscious topics, “good kid m.A.A.d. city” includes themes of gang violence, faith, alcoholism, drug use and death. However, unlike many other hip-hop artists, Lamar accommodates these topics with a sense of urgency and consciousness instead of boasting.
“Good kid m.A.A.d. city” tells the story of young Lamar’s Compton upbringing and the events that molded him into the person he is today, alluding to the album’s subtitle, “A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar.”
The record opens with a recording of a group of young man in prayer. These recordings are present throughout the album and act as junctures between tracks that add to the album’s narration.
Each track tells a piece of Lamar’s life story. “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter” tells the story of teenage Lamar meeting a girl at a party and quickly feeling affection for her, even though her family is involved in gang violence. “The Art of Peer Pressure” describes Lamar at his first home burglary after being persuaded by his friends. “Swimming Pools” speaks about the effects of alcoholism in his family.
The aggressive track “Backseat Freestyle” sounds uncharacteristic of Lamar’s music at first. However, this style was purposefully chosen, and that becomes clearer to the listener as the song continues, telling the story of Lamar at 18, freestyling in bravado with his friends.
The most impressive song on the album is the 12-minute track “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.” The song is divided into two parts.
The first part has three verses. The first verse is told through the eyes of a character known as Dave’s brother. Dave was a friend of Lamar’s that is murdered earlier in the album’s story. The next verse is told a character known as Keisha’s sister. Keisha is a woman Lamar rapped about on “Section .80” that died in prostitution. The final verse is Lamar’s own sentiments toward Dave and Keisha, as he tries to understand the meaning of life and how to deal with death.
The track then breaks down into the second part, where he rediscovers his faith, ends his association with gangs and begins a new life.
“Good kid m.A.A.d. city” has been the most impressive hip-hop album of this year. The linear storyline showcases Lamar’s beloved hell of Compton in a way that is shocking and raw.
In case you aren’t sold yet, the track “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” features background vocals from an unlikely collaboration with Lady Gaga.
The album is a testament that Lamar is worthy of stardom, as he continues to raise the bar for not only hip-hop, but music altogether.
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Album: “good kid m.A.A.d. city”
Released: Oct. 22, 2012