Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City Review

You know how some people say that “they are rarely at a loss for words…”

Well, I am often at a loss of words. Look at my last blog post, how many months ago was that?

While being moved to silence is often a sign of something profound happening, when it comes to me, being moved to words is much more telling.

I have listened and enjoyed a good number of albums this year.  I have downloaded and played dozens of songs dozens of times each.  I am constantly listening to music, and am rarely lacking something new to check out.

Over the past few months I have listened to hundreds of hours of music and it wasn’t until 9:10pm tonight that I felt like I had to review something.  It wasn’t until I downloaded Kendrick Lamar’s new album.  As soon as I hit track 3 – I couldn’t ignore the feeling to tell people about this album.

Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid M.A.A.D City

I can’t say I didn’t see this coming.  Kendrick didn’t come out of nowhere after all.  He has been starting point guard for my iTunes this year.  He has his hand in most of the music I have been playing lately.  I still play his slightly overlooked Section.80 album regularly.  I still occasionally listen to Ab Soul and Schoolboy Q’s (his fellow Black Hippy cohorts) albums.  I have listened to Cartoons and Cereal & Swimming Pool hundreds of times each.  I even told you all to keep an eye on him earlier in the year:

Keep An Eye on Kendrick

So here we are, and Kendrick just dropped album of the year.

You might argue he doesn’t have a lot of competition, but besides that being false, it doesn’t matter.  This album would have sounded great in any era. It wouldn’t have been the best rap album made in 1996, but it wouldn’t be The Doggfather either.

So what about the album itself…

What Kendrick has created is a legitimate rap album.  This isn’t a collection of random singles.  While I vehemently defend rap in today’s age, I do miss the “art of the album“. I think the line between mixtapes and albums has gotten too blurred.  Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is a great album.  Each track flows together perfectly.  It is clear the sequencing on this album was taken very seriously. More importantly, there seems to be an overall storyline to the album (need to digest it more, just noticing it now).

All those things are great of course, but an album of the year(AOTY) they do not make.

However, when you consider that Kendrick has accomplished all of the above, while rapping as well as anyone today, then you begin to see why I think this is AOTY.  In today’s age a lot of rappers get by on style over substance.  Kendrick combines them both.  He will rap about social issues but he isn’t preachy.  He manages to sound socially conscious, without sounding like a douchebag.

Lupe Fiasco, take notes!

Not only does he have substance though – he has style.  We all know rappers that we want to love;  we really want to love them because they are positive, political and clever… but they are boring.

Kendrick isn’t boring.  

He can sound different from one track to the next.  In fact, he might use two or three voices/flows in one song.  Hell, Dr. Dre liked his flow so much on The Recipe, that he decided to use it.

  • Cohesive album with a general theme – check.
  • Great lyrics – check.
  • Great flow(s) – check.

Not a bad start, but once again – not an AOTY.   We are missing the final piece – production… does Good Kid, M.A.A.D City pass the production test?

Uh, yeah.

Kendrick has managed to pick some incredible beats.  There isn’t really a lag on the entire album.  The production manages to sound current, but it is offers just enough throwback moments and sounds to gain those ever important “nostalgia points” from the older rap fans.

I am not necessarily comparing sounds, but the first thing that comes to mind is Dungeon Family.  While this doesn’t share a sound with DF, it does exude that sort of feel.  The production is unique, includes some slick beat switches, and the melding of throwback sound with current appeal just has that vibe to it.

One of the best examples of the above two points is M.A.A.D City.

The track starts out with a Lex Luger style beat that Kendrick rides like a pro.  Sounds very current, almost club friendly…then about two minutes in it organically morphs into an old school sounding west coast beat, that Kendrick trades verses with MC Eiht on.

I don’t know how much more I can tell you about the album, really need to digest it more.

Some of My Fav Tracks:

  • Backseat Freestyle – Beat sounds like current Kanye, which makes sense since it is produced by Hit Boy.  Kendrick kills this.  Showcases the versatility in his flow and voice.
  • The Art of Peer Pressure – Socially conscious done right.  Album version has a different (better) intro than the version that leaked a week or two ago.
  • M.A.A.D City – See Above
  • Swimming Pools – One of the best songs of the year, the extended album version might not sound as good as the original on it’s own, but it fits the album perfectly.
  • Poetic Justice – Laid back, RnB sample.  Perfect Canvas for Kendrick to trade versus with one of the albums few guests – Drake.

Am I overrating an album because it is new and stands out from weak competition or has Kendrick really arrived?  I am honestly not sure.  I guess time will tell, for now let’s just enjoy a great album.

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