Kendrick Lamar –  good kid, m.A.A.d. city
(Top Dawg)

Words: Jordan Catalana 

Going to Bonnaroo this summer was one of the greatest (weirdest?) experiences of my short life, but missing Compton’s own Kendrick Lamar was a regret that was even harder to shake than days’ worth of caked-on venue mud.  If you ask me, Kendrick Lamar will always be remembered as the king of the summer of 2012, getting thrown into the public spotlight as one of the busiest men on the ever-growing festival circuit. Bonnaroo, Coachella, Pitchfork, SXSW, Black Friday, Austin City Limits, Paid Dues, Global Fusion, Rock the Bells—you name the tent, Mr. Lamar was there impressing the shit out of some unsuspecting crowd. In just over a year his independent mix-tapes have turned into label-bearing bona fide chart-toppers, and he has become the storytelling, role-playing, newcomer of the dirty indie rap scene.

good kid, m.A.A.d. city is Lamar’s first major studio album and has solidified his prophecy as Dr. Dre’s newest protégé. Tracks like “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Compton” boast rhymes that rep himself and his city with a maturity and pride that seem sophisticated beyond his twenty-five years. Unlike a lot of similarly tagged rappers (I’m looking at you, Lil B), Lamar manages this pride smartly so as to alleviate the possibility of sounding too arrogant. Lamar ever-so-smoothly rolls through a verse in “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” with a breathless “Look inside of my soul and you can find gold and maybe get rich/Look inside of your soul and you can find out it never exist,” exuding a demeanor that can only be described as effortlessly cool. His verses like this are the bones of this album, offsetting the catchy, if simple, choruses, like in the breakout single “Swimming Pool (Drank)”. It’s easy to celebrate his ability to make his inner dialogue mid-drinking binge sound inviting, (“Some people like the way it feels/Some people wanna kill their sorrows/Some people wanna fit in with the popular/That was my problem”) and it actually makes me forget all about how I should hate that he says the word “drank” eight times…per hook.

In addition to killer rhymes and background beats that demand attention, Lamar seems to have also mastered the marriage of haunting nostalgia and artful storytelling that reminds me of Dre circa mid-90s (in the best way). A voicemail track plays at the end of some tracks and in the beginnings of some others, acting as the perfect interlude in Lamar’s big-picture album. If I didn’t feel so “eh” about buying anything on vinyl recorded in the post-mp3 era, I would totally enjoy letting gkmc play seamlessly from start to finish.

Kendrick Lamar has found where he belongs in a new generation of smart rappers and made a name for himself in the process. A little less witty than Childish Gambino, a hell of a lot less raunchy than Danny Brown, and not quite as blunt as any faction of Odd Future, Lamar explores the new rap scene as autobiographical art and the whole world should be thanking him for it. I know I am. 

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