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Album Review: Kendrick Lamar- good kid, m.A.A.d city


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Despite making music for ten years, it has been since his 2010 mixtape Overly Dedicated that Lamar’s career has picked up steam, leading to a record deal with Dr. Dre’s infamous Aftermath and last year's digitally exclusive album Section 80., which was received with critical acclaim.

In Hip-Hop Kendrick is located in an unique place, rejecting the conscious rapper label that was projected onto him after Section 80.’s  release and refusing to stick to any norms by collaborating with a variety of artists from Lady Gaga to 2 Chainz. His unapologetic stance on simply being himself, reminds us that the beauty of Hip-Hop lies in its multiplicity, regardless of commercial success. 

Following a loose narrative and interspersed with skits good kid, m.A.A.d. city is more than an album, feels cinematic in every way and is notably described as ‘A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar.’ The album starts off with Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter where we see Kendrick’s juvenile infatuation with the titular character which has drastic consequences, setting the scene for the world Lamar inhabits and the pressures his young self faced. From The Art of Peer Pressure’s insightful look into the relation between criminal activity and being with the ‘homies’ to Good Kid, which details the difficulty of staying out of the world of gangs in Compton.

Although the album focuses on this narrative there is great diversity in production and content. Poetic Justice featuring Drake , a smooth R’N’B bedroom affair, acts as the obligatory track the ladies like without being corny or Kendrick losing his lyricism. With credits boasting the likes of Pharell, Just Blaze and Hit-Boy, production isn’t left to take second place. In terms of content, there is reference to Kendrick’s present struggles in B- Don’t Kill My Vibe; in the face of fame he still prefers solitude. 

At 12 minutes long Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst is a prefect summation of  good kid, m.A.A.d. city. The album starts off with prayer and faith is a consistent theme throughout Kendrick’s work. The track brings this to head, ending with a prayer. It also features another thread that is present in the album, family. Real sees Lamar reach maturity as he embraces the important the things: his family, faith and being true to himself.

To fully understand each track the album needs to be listened to in order, placing them in context. The depth of Lamar’s artfulness also requires listeners to read between the lines and replay tracks otherwise much of it goes over your head. With the catchy chorus of “pool full of Liquor then you dive in”, summer hit Swimming Pools sounds like an ode to excess but is rather a tale of the dangers of alcohol. Backstreet Freestyle uncharacteristically features the statement ”all my life I want money and power” but the track is Kendrick rapping as his naïve, immature 16-year-old self, spewing out ridiculous braggadocio. 

good kid, m.A.A.d. city is incredibly multi-faceted with so much more to be said about it. Each track helps to paint to a portrait of Kendrick Lamar and by the end of the album it feels as if we know him the same way we know a good friend. In all the areas it excels in (lyricism, production and storytelling) its greatest success is that like he intended, we know Kendrick better, that like his mum’s voicemail says that “he rose from a dark place of violence, becoming a positive person.”

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