Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kendick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (2012) – Review

Review: Compton MC Kendrick Lamar seems to be hip hop’s latest contender for the crown of best rapper alive, and with Kendrick it does not feel like such a stretch (in fact, he probably is). Technically, he is flawless. Lyrically, he is thoughtful and a wonderful storyteller. Artistically, he weaves hip hop’s present and past together magnificently. His aesthetic is one of the best in the genre. With his major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick has made 2012’s best hip hop album so far.

The anticipation for good kid, m.A.A.d city has been immense, both from fans that loved Section.80 (his first studio album, and one of the best of 2011) and those intrigued by his signing with Dr. Dre and his string of great singles released in 2012 (The Recipe, Swimming Pools [Drank] and Compton). A song potentially slated to be on the album leaked in early 2012 called Cartoons & Cereal setting the mood for what good kid, m.A.A.d city would be like – the song is brilliant, as is the finished album.

good kid, m.A.A.d city plays as an introspective story following Kendrick’s journey through adolescence growing up in Compton (with the dangers, influences and culture the city encompasses), detailing the choices he made. It is an enthralling story that draws the listener in. Kendrick is not just boasting or rapping about wealth and the things that come with it, he is telling his fans about something real, something important, something we can care about and not just frivolous. And yet, he is still able to touch on many of the typical genre topics. He talks about how he survived the streets, the allure and pitfalls of chasing women, making money (though, there seems to be a negative connotation to what the cost of ‘making it’ is). In many ways the album is a love letter to Compton and warning to the youth still struggling to get through the day in the city (maybe best stated in Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst).

Musically, the album is like nothing else in hip hop. It references the West Coast sound that Kendrick grew up on (including appearances by MC Eiht and Dr. Dre), while also having the raw energy and anger of one of his main influences Tupac. But, Kendrick combines this with a very modern sound. He is very cognizant of where the genre has been and where it is going, and his place in it. His TDE/Black Hippy crew makes their mark on the album too with great production from Terrace Martin, Sounwave, and THC and a bitter (but poignant) verse from Jay Rock. Kendrick also has strong production from notable producers Pharrell, Just Blaze, T-Minus and Hit-Boy, and a guest verse from Drake.

Expectations for good kid, m.A.A.d were incredibly high, and Kendrick has delivered a classic album. It is a must for fans of hip hop. 5/5

Essential Tracks:

1)      Swimming Pools (Drank) Extended Version – Produced by T-Minus
2)      m.A.A.d city – Produced by Sounwave and THC, featuring MC Eiht
3)      Backseat Freestyle – Produced Hit-Boy

Available on CD and Digital Download

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