What happens when a restless soul in a godforsaken holy ground hastily spits out his every observation through a microphone? The world witnesses the emergence of the most profoundly vivid and honest storyteller of this rap generation.
Compton-bred rapper Kendrick Lamar has catapulted to the forefront of hip-hop chatter with the release of his major label debut album “good kid: m.A.A.d. City.” Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and the Game recently crowned Lamar “the new King of the West Coast” and on “m.A.A.d. city” he incorporates his influences such as innocence, family and the streets into 12 methodically crafted tracks. Similar to his explosive first indie album “Section.80,” “m.A.A.d City,” released by Dr. Dre’s Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment, offers an impeccable balance of big-name commercial tunes (“Poetic Justice feat. Drake”), melodic, bluesy, vulnerable tracks (“Black Boy Fly”) and bold, outspoken, cypher- style lyrical massacre (“Backseat Freestyle”). In contrast, Lamar narrates this album from within his immediate circle of friends, family and enemies. He masters the art of injecting authenticity back into mainstream airwaves where it has been missing for so long. Statements such as “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” (“Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”).
Lamar’s consistent top-of-the- line lyricism, arrangement and production separate him from other rap elite. There hasn’t been a rapper that speaks so accurately and passionately on behalf of a generation since 2Pac. Lamar’s verses in “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” are vessels through which characters from his story vicariously come to life. In the first verse, Kendrick speaks to himself through the brother of his friend who was shot during a violent retaliation, which takes place at the end of the preceding song.
The second, a rant from Lamar’s former classmate Keisha’s little sister, begins “you wrote a song about my sister on your tape / Section.80, the message resembled Brenda’s Got A Baby,” as Lamar humbly acknowledges his frequent comparisons to the legendary “Makaveli.” The misguided Compton girl goes on to explain she has no choice but to live the life of prostitution and self-degradation her older sister did. The listener can easily sing along to this track without picking up its undertones because it’s as audibly pleasing as it is gravely empathetic.
The narrative format of the album tells the story of a good kid (Lamar) trudging through thickets of gang ties, neighborhood anarchy and internal moral confliction. Its interludes are cleverly placed at the end of songs and collectively compose a surface-level street biography.
I’ve followed Lamar for years now and after witnessing his emergence from its genesis, it’s hard for me not to feel biased calling the album flawless, epic or legendary. So take a listen of your own. Actually, take a few. Each time you’ll hear something you hadn’t caught the last time around. You’ll be more in awe of Lamar as an artist, and have more respect for him as a person. The $12 is a measly price to pay for this insightful masterpiece. Validate his optimistic chant in “Money Trees feat. Jay Rock,” “a dollar might turn to a million and we all rich…” He deserves it far more than the average six-figure rapper.