Album Review: Kendrick Lamar – ‘good kid, m.A.A.d City’

The news that Kendrick Lamar was going to drop a new album this fall had hip-hop fans weak at the knees with the thought of more legendary Lamar lyrics. The pining, yearning and longing for an intense album that would really smack the listener right between the eyes is over: good kid, m.A.A.d city delivers on every front. The album, following on from Section.80, bears the truths of growing up in Compton, LA, taking the listener on a journey through Lamar’s childhood. Feeling no need to shake up his production team, Lamar makes a point of rebuffing new producers. He wanted to prove himself and on good kid, m.A.A.d city and indeed he does.

The album is subtitled “A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar,” and prepares the listener for the autobiographical journey ahead of them over the following 12 tracks. Opening with an intimate sound clip of a family prayer before a meal, the listener is instantly thrown into the Lamar household and the voyage through Lamar’s childhood begins. Shortly afterwards, the haunting beat drops on the opening track ‘Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter’ and Lamar unleashes his tongue twisting flow in a relaxed tone – audible for the listeners, yet near impossible to replicate. Lamar then introduces one of the several voicemails left throughout the album, “I froze and my phone rang” and here we hear a voicemail left by Kendrick’s mother, asking of his whereabouts. The album is peppered with voicemail messages, adding further autobiographical touches and allowing a more personal insight into the life and childhood of Kendrick Lamar.

‘Backseat Freestyle’ is incredibly memorable as it’s the first track on the album that has a pulsing, vibrating beat that resonates throughout the mind of the listener. In true Kendrick Lamar style, the body rocking beats are supplemented by genius flow and Lamar even turns it up in the final verse to rap practically in triple time. Lamar is rapping as his 16 year old self and thus the lyrics reflect the money-making aspect of hip-hop music – “All my life I want money and power”. His lyrical word play is on par throughout the whole album and Lamar delivers on every punch line consistently throughout every song. He also maintains intense flow throughout the album – especially prevalent on ‘Good Kid’.

One track that sticks out when listening to the album has to be the penultimate track ‘Real’. Lamar is gentle from the outset, and yet is still able to show off his impeccable flow, hardly taking a second to breathe throughout his verses leaving the listener short of breath themselves. The relaxed beats and vocals on this track make it seem like the conclusion of the album, especially with the final voicemail from his mother which appears as an important message about growing up in Compton, “Come back a man, tell your story to these black and brown kids in Compton, let ‘em know you was just like them.” Lamar however, doesn’t let his mother have the last say on the album. The final track is explosive from the outset, and in true west coast fashion, features the pioneer of gangsta rap himself, Dr. Dre. The powerful rap preaching of “ain’t no city quite like mine, in the city of Compton,” closes the album and reminds the listener of Lamar’s west coast heritage.

The key word to describe this album is consistency. Lamar is impressively consistent with his flow, going in hard and showing emotion when required. Every track sounds impressively intense with a pulse that circulates through the listener. The eclectic usage of beats and special effects compliments every track and highlights the pure talent of Kendrick Lamar. Tracks to certainly look out for on the album are ‘Backseat Freestyle’, ‘The Art of Peer Pressure’, ‘Poetic Justice’ and ‘m.A.A.d city’. The album certainly lives up to every single expectation and it can even be called the ‘Illmatic’ (Nas’ pioneering debut album) of this decade.

Hannah Jeffery

Hannah has been listening to Jai Paul – Jasmine

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