Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city Album Review by Victoria Shantrell Asbury

Artist:  Kendrick Lamar
Title:  good kid, m.A.A.d. city
Released:  October 22, 2012
Hood:  Compton, California USA

Words: Victoria Shantrell Asbury
Edit: Jay Fingers

There’s hood and there’s gangsta. The two, however, are not necessarily synonymous. Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is a masterfully composed album for the hood. In fact, Good Kid is the closest thing to a musical interpretation of Boyz N the Hood for the late ‘80s babies generation. But this isn’t Straight Outta Compton. Kendrick Lamar is no gangsta, but the story that he recreates on Good Kid is, arguably, the realest hood shit to hit the mainstream in a while.

The album, which is more like an aural movie, is set in a particular time and space. References to Ciara and wearing dark shades at parties on the first track, “Sherane aka Master Splinter’s Daughter,” clues the audience to the era in which the album takes place: the early 2000s. The distinct dialects heard in dialogue snippets throughout the album tells you  the characters are on the West Coast; street names, neighborhoods, and schools mentioned tells you they’re in LA. The last track, “Compton,” makes it clear where Kendrick is from.

Sex, violence, death, love, family, and spirituality are the themes explored via dope rhymes over polished beats. Kendrick discusses the frailties of a generation—of urban Black culture—in a manner that does not place him on a pedestal. Rather, he gives us profoundly personal insight into his experiences, thoughts, and feelings that are common to those of this culture. Although other young rappers talk about in the plight of poor Black communities, they seem to lack the awareness to critique what’s happening around them or to their psyche. Kendrick Lamar’s perceptiveness, lyrical ability, and production team places him in an entirely different class of artists.

It is difficult to talk about the sound of Good Kid. The album doesn’t seem to have a particular regional sound, West Coast or otherwise. The production is high quality and custom fitted for each scene. Tracks are longer than usual because many have two, if not more, distinct parts with drastically different styles of beats and rhymes. The multi-part tracks seem to follow a pattern of story and explanation. For example, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” tells the story of two characters dying and fading away with the reason ultimately being they are dying of thirst for salvation through the Blood of Jesus. Although the beats are not regional, this is most definitely an ode to a distinct LA sound, vibe, and experience. “The Recipe” and “Compton” are obviously dedicated to Los Angeles and Compton, but the “LA-ness” is also present in the vernacular heard throughout the album. It wouldn’t be surprising if in 20 years, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is mentioned in The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, next to the likes of Nas and Paul Laurence Dunbar. This is hood. This is art. This is Blackness at its finest.

The only real concern with Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is that people may not truly grasp the knowledge Kendrick is dropping. Every teenaged Black boy needs to listen to this album and really digest the messages in the story that’s being told. It’s an album that deserves to be bought, and listened to, and analyzed thoroughly.

Overall Grade: A- (BUY)
soulhead Favorites: Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, Money Trees, Swimming Pools, Real, The Recipe, Now or Never

Listen to the full album below:

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