If you visit this site regularly, or even somewhat often, you have probably noticed that we are pretty big fans of Kendrick Lamar. The Compton MC is by far the most original and versatile rapper that we have come across in some time. For this reason, good kid, m.A.A.d city takes the cake for our most highly anticipated release of the year. Even with the biggest expectations, we found ourselves amazed by the quality of Kendrick’s debut. good kid, m.A.A.d city is a precise, detailed story of an adolescent lifestyle in Compton that conveys so many different emotions that are not usually hit within a hip-hop album. Even more so than the outstanding independent releases, Overly Dedicated and Section.80, Kendrick is able to blend his past experiences with a socially-conscious outlook to create a really enjoyable and thought-provoking narrative.
1.) Sherane A.K.A. Master Splinters Daughter: Perfect for the intro track because it gives the listener a feeling of where Kendrick is in his life when this story is taking place. He’s 17 years old and is falling for this girl he met at a party a few months previous. Over some eerie synths, Kendrick explains his lust for Sherane but also his uncertainly of her because of her “hoodrat” status (see title).
2.) Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe: One of the least story-oriented songs on here but it basically sums up Kendrick’s demeanor throughout this album. Over some chilled out production, Kendrick reminds us that he is in the rap game for his love of music and and not just for the money and celebrity status that others strive for. Definitely a track that will appeal to the masses due to its catchy hook and relatable message.
3.) Backseat Freestyle: Kendrick himself said that this track is written from the perspective of his 17-year old self when all he was concerned about was money and bitches. Hit-Boy on the production so as expected, the beat knocks. I first heard this song before I listened to the album in full and I was confused by its content but it’s place in this album makes perfect sense.
4.) The Art of Peer Pressure: This two-part track explains the mentality of Kendrick and his crew all while examining the peer pressure that he is faced with on a daily basis. Arguably my favorite track on the album simply because of the truthfulness of the message. The mellow production gives off a real West-coast rider type of vibe which is completely fitting.
5.) Money Trees (ft. Jay Rock): With a consistent flow, Kendrick recaps the story so far: robbing a house with his homies, messing with Shearane, and freestyling in the car. In my opinion, this song has the best hook on the entire album, which talks about how money can change a person in so many ways. I was a somewhat upset to find out that Jay Rock was on the album rather than ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul but I was completely silenced after hearing Jay Rock arguably outshine Kendrick on this one.
6.) Poetic Justice (ft. Drake): Sampling Janet Jackson’s Any Time, Any Place, Scoop Deville provides the smooth instrumental for Kendrick and Drake to spit about their relationships with a certain girl (Sherane, in Kendrick’s case). This track is an example of why I appreciate Kendrick so much. His ability to create a catchy radio-ready track but still keep it lyrical and meaningful is something that’s rare in hip-hop today.
7.) Good Kid: This cut, produced by The Neptunes, highlights the realizations Kendrick comes to about the gang violence that surrounds him and the stereotypes that affect him because of his association with gang members. Kendrick is a good kid in a mad city and he is troubled by the fact that he cannot do much to escape it. This is a perfect way to set the mood for the second-half of the album.
8.) m.A.A.d City: The fast-paced production mixed with Kendrick’s aggressive delivery represents the craziness of Compton. I think it is safe to say that Kendrick goes his hardest on this one as he describes crime scenes that he has witnessed, losing his job due to pressure from his friends, and his experience with laced weed (an explanation to why he doesn’t smoke). In an interview, Kendrick explains that the title of this song and album has two meanings: “my Angry Adolescents divided” and “my Angel on Angel dust”.
9.) Swimming Pools (Drank): This track, the leading single for the album, was one of my favorite songs of the summer. Kendrick explains his relationship with liquor and the impact it had on him and his family growing up. I find the conversation between Kendrick and his conscience in the second verse to be a really creative way to shows the conflict he has within himself.
10.) Sing About Me, Dying of Thirst: These two separate songs are placed on the same track because both incidents that he talks about occurred on the same day. In the first half, Kendrick takes the voice of two people that he knows who are talking to him: a man who wishes that his brother’s existence can last forever through music and a girl who doesn’t want her sister to be mentioned in Kendrick’s songs because she thinks that he is criticizing her. Kendrick explains both of these stories because he thinks his listeners can learn from other people’s past experiences. In the second half, Kendrick admits that him and his crew are in need to be morally replenished in order to succeed.
11.) Real (ft. Anna Wise): This is where the story of good kid, m.A.A.d city ends. Kendrick is in full realization that his past experiences should be looked at in a different light. He knows that he needs to use reflect on his past endeavors to continue to grow as a person. One of the weaker songs on the album due to the repetitive hook but the well-thought lyrics make up for it.
12.) Compton (ft. Dr. Dre): This song is the mark of a new beginning for Kendrick and his new positive outlook on a city that is often filled with danger and violence. Dr. Dre provides some of the best verses I’ve heard from him in some time (we think Kendrick might have helped him with these…). The vocoder-filled outro is an obvious ode to the Dre-classic California Love which I think is a great way to end the album.
After listening all the way though over 10 times, The Audio Dope is classifying good kid, m.A.A.d city as a modern classic hip-hop album. 5/5 stars.