Album Review: Kendrick Lamar, Good Kidd, M.A.A.D. City, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope

Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City

It’s probably been an intense but otherwise great year for Kendrick Lamar. With worldwide fame and recognition gently dancing at his fingertips, the release of his major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d. city was supposed to be some sort of grand statement, standing for everything Lamar had worked so hard to achieve up to that point. Luckily, it did. Good kid, m.A.A.d. city is to say, without sounding too pretentious, unlike any other rap album I’ve ever listened to. “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter” begins with a muffled, distorted prayer until the beat drops in and fades into something eerie. Kendrick comes in sounding all alien-like next to a spaceship beat of a song. He’s an alien in the truest sense, and the fact that he never once claims to this ideal is what’s especially good about him. Sure, Lil Wayne babbled all over the place about how he wasn’t a human being, and yeah, he sounded a little like it too. But Kendrick just is. There’s no gimmick here, folks. It’s pure and it’s real, relatable while still being unique. And speaking of unique, the beats on this album are undeniably tailored to fit his strange ways. Take the song “Backstreet Freestyle.” Here, Lamar sounds hyper and aggressive backed by a beat that sounds like it was recorded in a construction zone. “The Art of Peer Presssure” is a mellow counterpart, depicting life as a teenage boy living in Compton, California without sounding too preachy or intense. Instead, it is what it is. It’s real. Of course, the album centers around the excellent lead single “Swimming Pools (Drank),” an ode to getting completely wasted without any sort of purpose. It manages to be personal and direct, with a beat that moves between loud and soft dynamics like a modern day rap version of the Pixies. On “Real” the chorus is a trouble-free statement where Lamar and guest vocalist Anna Wise from the band Sonnymoon chant, “I’m real, I’m real, I’m really really real.” Sure, it comes close to being downright childish, but who cares? I don’t, because it does what it needs to do, and I’m happy with that. If the epitome of Kendrick Lamar isn’t found in “Real,” then it’s in the album’s celebratory final song “Compton,” with the master and commander team of Dr. Dre and Lamar steering the ship of West Coast rap into a new horizon. Here’s to hoping that ship doesn’t sink anytime soon. (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope) Zach Rogers