Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city (Album Review)

by ike

The album of the year. I have spoken this into existence. Moving on. K.Dot releases his highly anticipated studio debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, and to positive response. Honestly I had my doubts as to whether this album would succeed Section.80, but let me be the first to say (if you haven’t heard it already), he has done just that.

Okay, enough talk. Lets begin.

Track #1 – Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter – You’re going to hear a lot about Sherane (pronounced SHA-rain) throughout the album, however this track takes a flash-forward approach. Kendrick begins the “ride,” through his crafted life story that explains much more about the Compton native. I use ride in quotations because honestly, when is his mother going to get her van back? Ah. Hence the album cover to the deluxe version.

Cassette tape beginning. Ode to Frank Ocean? Anyways, Kendrick commences the album with a prayer of thanks of keeping him alive through it all and presenting him with many blessings despite his m.A.A.d behavior. Yes I will explain the acronym later on.

Like I said before, Sherane is obviously a girl that we take as Kendrick’s “love interest” and Kendrick raps about the what, when, who, where and why they met. Or maybe she was just a quick fuck. I mean, Kendrick is 17 at this point. Regardless, the track is laced with repeated electronica ticks and an eerie synth that whispers mysteriously behind Kendrick’s lyricism that evokes the first sighting of Sherane.

The track ends abruptly and we get a recording of Kendrick’s mother reprimanding her son. Asking where her car is. She needs food stamps. She’s hungry. Kendrick’s father wants Domino’s. Pretty funny guy actually. Cut his Otis back on. You’re killing his mother fucking vibe. Okay, moving on.

Track #2 – B***h, Don’t Kill My Vibe – Easily my favorite song on the album. As the track suggests, Kendrick just wants to relax to sounds whilst drinking. However, he explains that he wants to explain something, but would rather just vibe. The track exemplifies this nicely. Guitar strums and shimmering cymbals create the base while staccato drum rolls static the song. These may, possibly, elaborate on what exactly Kendrick wants to explain but would rather meld into the strings solo at the end. Which is perfect.

The track ends with yet another voicemail message from a friend who tells him they are about to roll out and to get his freestyles ready. Let the mayhem begin.

Track #3 – Backseat Freestyle – This song sets the scene for the following track. Backseat freestyling, Kendrick is riding around with friends in the middle of the night, a little more livened by the alcohol. His current status involves routine teenage thinking. “I’m invincible, so nothing can harm me.”

The track, produced by Hit-Boy, is detailed by “Christmas chimes,” a heavier bassline and echo drums. I like. Not much more here.

Track #4 – The Art of Peer Pressure – Okay. Here’s where we begin to see the good kid fall into the m.A.A.dness of the world. Kendrick is still in the car with his friends and at the beginning of the track, life seems good. However Kendrick reminisces on his mother telling him that “one day it’s gone burn [him] out,” and the track takes a left.

Now Kendrick is on his way to cause mayhem. Simply because his friends want to. They ride around and stop at the liquor store, talk to girls, reprimand opposite gang members and commit a robbery to which Kendrick thinks of the worst. “YOU GOING TO JAIL NOW!” Jokes aside, they grab what they can and flee the scene, because one friend realizes that someone else is in the house. I’m not going to spoil the rest of the story though.

Nicely done and the end of the track alludes to why exactly Kendrick Lamar doesn’t smoke to this day. One friend also alludes to Sherane again. Next track.

Track #5 – Money Trees (feat. Jay Rock) – The track recaps everything that has happened thus far while Kendrick’s friends drive him back home. That is:

  1. Sherane
  2. Robbing the house
  3. His freestyle while intoxicated in the backseat
  4. And the chorus line: “Everybody gone respect the shooter, but the one in front of the gun lives forever..” alludes to events that take place later in the story.

Track #6 – Poetic Justice (feat. Drake) – Honestly, this didn’t need Drake. Love the Janet Jackson sample of course. Okay, Kendrick has made it home. Or I think. Anyways, seems like Kendrick is on the way to see Sherane (in his mother’s van of course). The track mimics Kendrick’s thoughts while he cruises and the vibe is right.

Very 90’s R&B inspired. It’s like the before-sex “set the mood right,” track. Get it Kendrick! ha. His friends roll up and call out to Kendrick. Not looking too good.

Track #7 – good kid – Pharrell Williams sings the chorus. I’m already biased. I assumed Kendrick would get lost in the track, but as always Kendrick dominates and Pharrell conjures up a lacy theme. (SN: I can only imagine what he’s going to do with JAY Z and Frank Ocean)

Kendrick Lamar gets jumped. Or some form of altercation ensues. Why? Kendrick is being questioned by unknown suspects (you’ll find out later) as to what color he represents. Red or blue pill. For those of you that didn’t catch that, meaning what gang is he affiliated with, asking “but what am I supposed to do, when the topic is red or blue..”

The track itself is a somewhat standalone. Actually, a lot what. Mainly because we are now beginning to dig into what the album title actually reflects. Kendrick, a good kid, is tormented by the ways of the world, but can’t escape this.

I’ll explain..

Track #8 – m.A.A.d city (feat. MC Eiht) – Kendrick obviously didn’t want fans to wait too long to figure out what’s going on. Oh, by the way, ScHoolBoy Q ended making the album. Yes, that is him screeching “YAWK!”. ha

I thought the track was a little reminiscent of something Lex Luger would cook up, but shifts towards the end and beginning of MC Eiht’s verse. The track then takes a little more 90’s inspired hip-hop flare that I have to say I appreciated. MC Eiht reinforces Kendrick’s references earlier by mentioning that “cocaine, weed.. nigga’s been mixing shit since the 80’s”.

Love Kendrick’s poetic rhyme towards the end mixed with the synthesized strings. Nice.

Okay m.A.A.d stands for my angry adolescence divided. Or more plainly, my angel’s on angel dust. Kendrick had this to say in an interview with Los Angeles Lakers:

Thats’ the reason I don’t smoke,

when the reporter retorted with,

So you knew somebody [who accidentally smoked] angel dust?

Kendrick says,

No, that was me.. it was me getting my hands on the wrong thing at the wrong time, being oblivious to it.

Okay, Kendrick mentions in the song that his first blunt left him foaming at the mouth, however it mention cocaine. This makes me think either Kendrick misquoted his own album, or he’s just trying to mention that his first blunt experience wasn’t a good one. Angel dust is PCP, not cocaine. I don’t know. This is too much thinking. The track ends with a friend of his telling him to relax and drink this. Next track.

Track #9 – Swimming Pools (Drank) [Extended Version] – I won’t say much here, mainly because you all have heard this track numerous times. We know that Kendrick is still being peer pressured into doing something he doesn’t normally do. Oh, I wonder what it is. Read  the title.

However, the track has been updated to include an interlude at the end. Looks like Kendrick is drinking away his pain (literally) and sorrows. Yes, this follows the jumping of Kendrick and looks to be  that Sherane orchestrated it all. Kendrick, in the company of his friends, is seeking comfort through his bottle while his friends plot revenge on the culprits.

A few talking scenes and we find that one friend (later found out, his name is Dave) sees the enemy and ensues a shootout. Seems like victory is there’s until Dave realizes that his brother was shot. Dave continues to shout his brother’s name, but Kendrick censors it out for album purposes, either out of respect or because he knows the culprit and fails to mention it. Hmm..

Track #10 – Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst – Prepare yourself. This track is long.. but I promise you that you’ll enjoy it. It’s growing up to do, and Kendrick is here to be the mentor.

I love the elevator music approach. The jazz/ensemble reminds me of those fancy banquets when everyone’s just up and about mingling. The musicality is great, but I think Kendrick made sure to not heavily overproduce this track to give the listener air to actually listen to what he’s saying.

Kendrick has taken two positions of people he knows. A positive and a negative approach. The first, I take to be his Uncle Tony that was shot outside of Louie’s Burgers (reference in Money Trees). Also because, Kendrick’s verse ends abruptly to the sound of bullets. The second, I can’t quite put my finger on, but I narrowed it down to either his mother or Dave.

He then presents his own position on this act of storytelling in the third verse.

The attached track, I’m Dying of Thirst, speaks of Kendrick’s grieves and sorrows and how he and his friends (mainly Dave) deal with the situations. The end skit brings us back to the beginning of the album, which opened up with prayer and tells how Kendrick and Dave came to find a new way to “quench their thirst”. That is the Holy Spirit (water, if that’s easier to understand).

Nice.

Track #11 – Real (feat. Anna Wise) – Okay, nearing the end of the ride folks.. at least on the standard edition. Okay, we find a more renewed, revitalized Kendrick on this track. The track is a little more upbeat, with airy synths and monotone drum ticks.

Kendrick focuses on the importance of loving yourself. Easy. Well.. in theory, but this basically explains how Kendrick couldn’t respond to the events he described throughout the album the way he would be able to now.

The track mixes with various voicemail messages from Kendrick’s father and mother, his father mentioning that being real entails taking care of your family, God and responsibility (in his own way of course). His mother gives motherly advice as always and speaks into existence how Kendrick needs to take his music career seriously.

The track ends to the sound of the cassette tape stopping then fast forwarding. We now hear current Kendrick Lamar.

Track #12 – Compton (feat. Dr. Dre) – Obviously an ode to the city that both rappers are from. The previous track ended with Kendrick’s mother telling him that he needs to give back to his city, so of course that’s what he does.

He begins by saying, “now everybody serenade the new faith of Kendrick Lamar,” complimenting his mother’s wishes on telling his own story of how he made it out the darkness. Hence, this entire album.

The beat is fiery and something you would hear on any movie that was filmed on the west coast around the late 80’s, early 90’s and according to Twitter, the beat is three years old. Good one Just Blaze.

Okay, I know this was a lengthy review, but I hope it at least somewhat explains the album. Kendrick Lamar gave us a piece of his life in a way that hasn’t been done before and if it has, not to this caliber. The album works as a whole and flows smoothly.

I give the album 5 of 5. Nice work.

Oh, and I’ll update this post with the deluxe edition tracks later. This took awhile to write out and thoroughly think about. Well.. somewhat I guess.

Ike

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