After dropping 3 critically acclaimed albums, "Kendrick Lamar EP", "O(verly)D(edicated)" and "Section.80" on the Top Dawg Entertainment indie imprint, the artist formerly known as K.Dot delivers his major label debut, a short film called, "Good Kid, m.A.A.d City". With so many artists conforming to the major label corporate agenda, dropping the typical radio single that sounds cookie cutter and manufactured in hopes of selling a lot of records only to recoup that advance back to the label; The great Dr. Dre gave Kendrick complete artistic control of this album that has no out of place songs or forced colabs. This album unfolds just like a movie. There are characters, good times, drama, thrillers, violence, a sex scene, redemption and some deep thought.
The film starts in the end. Pulp Fiction-esque. The album opens with a prayer in which he is asking Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. What is remarkable about Kendrick is his story telling ability. At the very beginning of the album he’s telling a story about how he met Sherane over the summer and then began to lust over her even though her family is tied into gangs. He then takes his mother's car to pay her a visit and is greeted by two guys in black hoodies. The song is interrupted by one of several skits that helps creates this album's cohesiveness. His mother calls asking him, “when are you bringing the car back?”, and his Dad is in the background irritated that Kendrick took his dominoes. In the skit he states that Kendrick's mother is killing his vibe. Then the story really starts to take off with “Backseat Freestyle”. His homies come and pick him up and everybody is feeling good and carefree. Kendrick's friend pops in a beat CD and Kendrick lets off a barrage of aggressive rhymes with tales of being young and reckless over another banger produced by Hit Boy ("N’s in Paris", "Clique", "Theraflu").
“The Art of Peer Pressure” enters with K.dot stating that he is actually a sober soul, but he’s with the homies so he’ll indulge in their mischief of weed smoking, liquor drinking and hollering at girls. His crew also gets involved with jumping guys from the wrong neighborhood and doing home invasions. The album takes a turn after he gets jumped by the guys in the black hoodies after he pulls up to Sherane's house. He finds himself in the role of Trey from "Boyz in the Hood", upset with the violence and police corruption that he is surrounded by with the Pharrell produced track, “Good Kid”. The MC Eiht assisted “m.A.A.d City” finds K.dot and his friends retaliating for the fight and ends up with K.dots friend Dave killed in the battle.
In “Sing About Me /I'm Dying of Thirst”, Kendrick finds hope in Jesus and holy water as he feels as though he’s dying of thirst and truly needs some type of guidance. The album ends with “Real” and “Compton”. His father explains to him that “real is in responsibility/real is in taking care of your family/real is God nigga” and “Compton” is the victory lap in which he is giving homage to the city that made him.
The lyrics, the beats, the cohesiveness, the introspective view and the concept of this album are all what’s missing in mainstream/radio Hip Hop today. Instead of throwing random songs together with the typical "flavor of the month" features, Kendrick took matters into his own hands. This debut album is a body of work and a rare commodity in gaudy mainstream Hip Hop. He’s definitely the “Good Kid in a m.A.A.d. city”. Certified classic debut.
By Shannon Page
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