The hype is real, and as real as it gets good kid m.A.A.d city is the album that hip-hop had been waiting for. On the cover of the album, it says “a short film by Kendrick Lamar”, and as far as story-telling goes, this is one of the best efforts from new comers in hip-hop to finally achieve a full cohesive album where each song made by different producers feels part of a whole, where Kendrick’s lyrical ability, cadence and story-telling make you feel as if you were there with him, there is literally no need to skip songs because it all plays out like a short film. It is absolutely premature to say that Kendrick is the next Nas or that good kid is this generation’s Illmatic, if anything good kid stands on its own, putting an end to what Dr. Dre and NWA started in the 80s with gangsta rap, Lamar ends this cycle by being the kid growing up with violence all around him that made it without ever being part of it. good kid, m.A.A.d city is a dense though-provoking album, its main themes include Lamar maturing from the kid that was often peer-pressured into the gang life into the man that he is today, the self-awareness of becoming a respected rapper without losing his credibility in an industry that turns promising rappers into victims of the fame, Lamar is aware of what it means to be a bystander in the midst of the violence around him since an early age, often giving listeners his insight in some of his most personal and vulnerable moments.
good kid, m.A.A.d city begins with a prayer in “Sherane A.K.A Master Splinters Daughter”, and then the story starts off with 17 year-old Lamar, who’s a hormonal teenager who takes his mother’s van just to go have sex with the prettiest girl around, whose family has a gang banging history that made Kendrick skeptical. By the end of the song we find out that two gang members, possibly related to Sherane are waiting for him outside her house. This is the beginning of Kendrick’s encounters with violence in Compton, including interludes that come in the form of voicemails from his mother and father and their efforts to keep Kendrick away from the street life.
Kendrick is a skillful rapper, who is not scared of talking about the inner conflict and the appeal of the money, drugs and women who have been glorified for years in hip-hop and draws his own conclusions as well, in “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”, Lamar raps about having dreams of becoming someone but staying true to what hip-hop is and means to him without becoming a mainstream act consumed by fame, “I’m trying to keep it alive and not compromise the feeling we love/You’re trying to keep it deprived and only co-sign what radio does”.
In “Real” you could capture the whole album with one of his mother’s voicemails: “If I don’t hear from you by tomorrow, I hope you come back and learn from your mistakes. Come back a man…Tell your story to these black and brown kids in Compton… When you do make it, give back with your words of encouragement. And that’s the best way to give back to your city. And I love you, Kendrick”, and that is ultimately what Kendrick is doing with good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Kendrick Lamar believes in the ability to convey truth within his music, the short film in good kid m.A.A.d city ends triumphant with “Compton” featuring the one and only Dr. Dre, ending the cycle of violence by growing up from the kid of the mad city of Compton that made it because of his lyrical ability, at the end of the day, it is too early to call it a classic, but it is the best effort by any newcomer in hip-hop to this date.
Must-listen songs: “Poetic Justice“, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst“, “Real“, “Swimming Pools”