Review: Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city

Catching up with one of the best records of 2012.
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Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d cityCompton-based rapper Kendrick Lamar’s brilliant good kid, m.A.A.d city is an inspired trip that reminds us that some artists are still making complete albums with realized visions and cinematic sensibilities. At just 25, Lamar’s wisdom is off the chain and his abilities on the microphone are amazing. He draws out bars in double and triple time, easing through intricate lines with the will and raw skill of a master.

Lamar’s second record dropped to finish off 2012 in style and found itself on the Best Of lists of many publications, rightly earning accolades for its unconventional songcraft and robust sense of drama. Rich with detail and sensitivity, good kid, m.A.A.d city is an ambitious and clever hip hop album that very well could go down as a classic.

Regarded as a “short film” on the album cover, the disc bowls through a storyline and tells the tale of an adolescent Lamar appropriating his mom’s van to visit a girl. Along the way, the youngster finds himself intoxicated by the magnetism of gang life. He encounters genuineness when a friend is shot and is barely pulled back from the edge by the power of family and faith.

It is to Lamar’s great credit that he so frequently turns the foul braggadocio of hip hop on its side, investigating the veracity of big game with willowy, sometimes serene rhymes that throb through dissimilar characters and fluctuating vocal grains. He assumes different roles like an actor, yet all the puzzle pieces fit.

good kid, m.A.A.d city should be heard from start to finish to discern the supremacy of its narrative lunge. It’s easy to pull apart certain singles and note the attendance of guest stars, like Dr. Dre or Drake, but it’s far more rewarding to experience things as Lamar intends.

From the inaugural bars of the swaggering “Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter” to the final frames of “Compton,” this is a record that values truth above all else. Even the ostensible party songs, like “Swimming Pools (Drank),” fit the greater narrative to numb the hurt.

There are many moments worth emphasizing. Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle” finds the rapper doing his best to keep up, hawking hot rhymes to impress his friends. And “m.A.A.d city” invokes MC Eiht and Lamar’s uncertain, desperate vocals to bring the hammer of truth down in a fire of scorching lead. Then there’s the 12-minute hunger of “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” an epic if there ever was one.

One of the very best records of 2012, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city is an astounding piece of art. It has the narrative drive and muscle of a great album, driving bravely through the streets of Compton and the obscurities of the soul. It exposes a young talent blessed with a transcendent centre that distinguishes the sheer authority of what’s real.