On a Hip Hop landscape rife with garbage, poppy songs, unoriginal sounds and bad radio—unavoidable even on Sirius XM—the last place one would expect to see a beacon of light would be the West. People thought hope would come from Atlanta, which has brought us legends like Outkast, T.I., and arguably Jeezy, but the last act to hail from the A was 2 Chainz… Outside of certain Wu-Tang members, even New York could not win back ears beyond the older gods who hailed from there (Jay Z, Nas, etc.), Chicago could have done it but they gave us a disappointing hellion in Chief Keef.
Introducing Kendrick Lamar
One day between switching the station from one of the sing-songy Rick Ross anthems about food and women, I heard something amazing. It was a song called The Recipe by the legendary Dr. Dre and a man named Kendrick Lamar… I couldn’t stop listening to it.
Replay, after replay, after replay, I played out the flows of Kendrick and before long I had had my fill. When Swimming Pools began to get rotation on the radio, it let me know that The Recipe wasn’t just some gimmick song – This kid Kendrick could flow.
When Kendrick’s debut album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City was released, I ran out and purchased it immediately. I hadn’t bought a physical CD in ages but the art on the cover was appealing… it was an old Polaroid of a van in someone’s yard and the title was not typed out… it was written. Just looking at the album puts you into that time period of yesteryear when Hip Hop was still raw, and the entire country was interested in the Compton thing.
Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Putting in the CD it echoes back a sound that I hadn’t heard in ages… the sound of a cassette tape snapping into the deck. Kendrick and family are in mid-prayer, the name Jesus is uttered several times as he prays for forgiveness, washing away sins and the typical lines – but then the prayer ends and Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter comes on.
Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City isn’t an album as much as it is a dark play; a story about one evening in the life of an impressionable young man in the gangland streets of Compton. Kendrick Lamar talks about pretty girls who set him up to get jacked; riding around with his “homies” and doing things out of character just to fit in with them; even the willingness to “put in work” when his brother is shot and killed. The album is REAL!
It is such a masterful piece of work that I find myself wondering at how the album was arranged to keep me—the listener—completely engaged in Kendrick’s words while the vivid pictures of the night played out in my head. The last few minutes of every song features Kendrick’s mother and father calling and leaving him voice mails wondering at his whereabouts and when it isn’t his parents it’s his friends talking trash – allowing you the listener to feel like a 5th passenger in that van. The calls and the story get darker as the album goes on and by the end of it all you feel a tad bit exhausted.
If you want a wonderful album that is meant more for listening than twerking, jamming, or listening to someone brag about cooking up crack cocaine, then pick up Good Kid, M.A.A.D. city as soon as possible. Critics are calling it a classic already and I can see why, Hip Hop has been largely unbalanced for a long time but Kendrick Lamar gives me hope that the music can still tell stories and influence positivity from it’s listeners.See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.