With five mixtapes and one independently released album already under his belt, Kendrick Lamar is no stranger to hard work. Growing up on the mean streets of Compton, CA, hometown of g-funk and mainstream hip-hop the weight upon his shoulders must have been considerable having originating from hallowed hip-hop ground.
Despite this, his major label debut ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’, executively produced by the father of modern hip-hop Dr.Dre himself, is no doubt the product of even harder work. I’m just going to throw this out there now; this album is a hip-hop masterpiece.
Rare is it nowadays that you can find a hip-hop album that holds genuine sincerity. Though many rappers will mention that they ‘grew up rough in the hood’ it seems this is merely an excuse to justify an excessive lifestyle of drink, money and drugs that proceeds to inundate the lyrics of the majority of releases that hit the shelves. Not since Childish Gambino’s ‘Camp’ however have I truly believed an artist’s story of a troubled and challenging childhood, Kendrick Lamar calls this record ‘a short film’ because in some respects it’s just that, it oozes ‘realness’ on a level only seen in movies. ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’’ is in essence an excellent autobiography.
Of course this wouldn’t be a hip-hop album without references to drink and drugs yet only by listening through these twelve tracks (and most notably ‘The Art of Peer Pressure’) does their true purpose become clear. In ‘Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst’ Kendrick raps “[…] if I hadn’t continued rappin’, or steady being distracted by money, drugs and four-fives, I count lives all on these songs. Look at the weak and cry, pray one day you’ll be strong…”. This is evidently a man that raps to tell stories and educate rather than to seek fame and money.
On a musical level, with tracks produced by giants such as Pharrell, Hit-Boy and Terrace Martin, ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ is full to the brim with head-nodding beats and samples. I dare you to listen to ‘Backseat Freestyle’ in your car and not shake your head. The various skits that litter this album as well not only add light relief, but also at times add serious depth to the stories Kendrick Lamar raps about.
It’s hard to explain the positive weight this record holds in one short review on top of its achievement as an impressively produced album overall. Grab this major label debut and you’ll understand that hip-hop can be so much more than what you’ve heard on the radio.
Penultimate track ‘Real’ sums up my thoughts on ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’, featuring a sample of Kendrick’s parents that epitomises the message of this record. “Tell your story to these black and brown kids in Compton. Let ‘em know you was just like them, but you still rose from that dark place of violence, becoming a positive person.”
Kendrick Lamar, I salute you.
‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ is available on iTunes now.