Kendrick Lamar’s second album, ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ has already been hailed ‘a classic’, and although it’s still in its early days, this accreditation seems pretty accurate. Produced by the likes of Dr Dre, Pharrell Williams, Rahki and Just Blaze – and featuring artists such as Jay Rock, Drake, MC Eiht and Anna Wise, ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ is essentially a formula for success. The 25 year old Hip Hop artist delivers an album can’t be ignored.
‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ is a string of narratives that gives us passage into Lamar’s teenage years. This West Coast rapper lyrically revisits his life in Compton, California, and shows how a ‘good kid’ became absorbed in sex, alcohol and gang culture. Sub-titling the album ‘A Film by Kendrick Lamar’, he proves to be a skilled storyteller, punctuating the album with skits of prayer, phone messages and dialog, making it all the more intimate. He balances rough rap tracks like ‘Backseat Freestyle’ where he compares himself to OJ Simpson in the respect that he’s “killing everything from pussy to a mothafuckin’ Hit- Boy beat” with more chilled and melodic lilts such as ‘Poetic Justice’ ft. Drake, providing the right amount of relief from the intense snapshots of gang violence.
A crackling recording of a prayer, “Lord God, I have come to you a sinner” opens the intimacy and fluidity of the album as it comfortably merges into the first track “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter” Lamar’s voice skims the top of an eerie chord sequence, showing the promise and excitement of being a seventeen year old; the opening line “I met her at this house party” marks the end of his innocence and the beginning of life in the ‘mad’, violent city of Compton as he goes on to become consumed by raw lust; “with nothing but pussy stuck on my mental”.
Kendrick Lamar’s Compton (featuring Dr. Dre)
Kendrick Lamar’s impressive lyrical craftsmanship is complimented by his ability to snatch inspiration from other genres and allow them to lend them to his own work. Although possessing the usual blueprint for a strong rap album; meaning abrasive beats, hard lyrics and three note loops, ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ manages to harness and infuse tuneful melodies with a vintage feel, monk-like a ccapella chants, and floating harmonies so as to create a personal story. The guest artists chosen for the album further lift Lamar’s work, particularly with Dr Dre performing on ‘Compton’ and Anna Wise providing the vocals to ‘Real’.
The album is very much an auto-biographical one, and it allows for us to grow up with Kendrick, placing us in the window seat to his life in the streets. Lamar demonstrates how he was confronted with challenges and decisions of morality, and how his choices affected his family, friends and future self. “All my life I wanted Money and power” a lyric from ‘Backseat Freestyle’ is soon changed as Kendrick realizes himself in the penultimate track ‘Real’. The song is introduced with the same opening prayer as the beginning of the album and a message from his mother – “remember this day, the start of your new life, your real life”. Kendrick grasps that his old aims were unsteady, and in ‘Real’, he demonstrates his realization that “You love your hood, might even love it to death//But what love got to do with it when you don’t love yourself?” ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ is an intricately structured album, and for fans of pure gritty rap it’s an impressive conceptual piece of work.
Written by Laura Durechova
OurVinyl | Contributor