Kendrick Lamar, ‘Good Kid, m.A.A.d City’ album review
By Sarah Godfrey,
Kendrick Lamar Good Kid, m.A.A.d City
Compton, Calif., has birthed many narratives, including the one at the center of Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City.” The 25-year-old Compton rapper’s major-label debut explores how a smart kid survives in a place where failure is not only expected but, in some cases, encouraged. It’s a popular film plot but rarer in rap. Lamar, with his dense, introspective rhymes, seems the right person to set this tale to music.
Last year’s indie release, “Section.80,” was a concept album that explored societal ills through two fictional characters; “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City” does the same, but the two characters here are Lamar and his hometown. “Smoking on the finest dope/Drank until I can’t no more/Really I’m a sober soul/But I’m with the homies right now,” Lamar raps in a laid-back drawl on “The Art of Peer Pressure.” But his willingness to follow his friends quickly takes a more sinister turn. “Black Boy Fly” finds Lamar talking about his mixed feelings watching the ascent of rapper the Game and NBA player Arron Afflalo — both Compton natives — and then explaining the real source of his envy: “I wasn’t jealous ’cause of the talents they got/I was terrified they’ll be the last black boys to fly/Out of Compton.”
A collaboration with MC Eiht, “m.A.A.d. City” bridges the gap between old-school and new-school L.A. rap — something Lamar excels at — starting with a frantic beat that transitions into G-funk. It’s a perfect coronation for the new “King of California,” (Dr. Dre’s words), as well as a shining example of Lamar’s hyper-introspective style of SoCal hip-hop.
— Sarah Godfrey
“m.A.A.d City,” “The Art of Peer Pressure,” “Black Boy Fly”