Not as anticipated as his mentor Dr. Dre’s Detox album, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city came close. That is what happens when a man who has been integral to profound musical shifts in hip hop takes you under their wing. That is what happens when a man who has been responsible for the birth or rebirth of the careers of some of the most significant rappers in our time is your mentor. While, in some instances, having a legend of Dr Dre’s stature looming over you could be a great disadvantage and immense pressure, the one thing Dre has always done is been able to provide artists with the space to truly flourish. He is like that coach with the seemingly unnatural ability to determine what makes each player on his team tick and the kind of environment required for them to flourish – although it must be said that he’s had some misses. From the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, NWA and Death Row through to his very own Aftermath Entertainment, Dr Dre has carved an eternal space for himself in hip hop history.
Part of a collective calling themselves Black Hippy, Kendrick Lamar is one of those artists who has used both the internet and the mixtape to effectively build a solid following, which didn’t hurt when it came to working towards his first mainstream album. He rapped initially under the moniker K-Dot and what has made him stand out is the willingness to explore the boundaries of his creativity. I haven’t listened to much of his mixtapes but what drew me to good kid, m.A.A.d city was the understanding that it wasn’t the typical “we’re rich, we live decadence, we have cars and women in abundance.” And I wasn’t disappointed. The beauty of the album is its coherence, as you are taken into the mind and life of a young man struggling to make sense of his reality from sex, death and parents to love, fun and dreams.
The structure of the album, subject matter and his ability to change his flow/delivery to perfectly fit each song makes it a definite addition to any hip hop collection. Each track fits and is as it should be. I love that he featured MC Eiht on m.A.A.d city, don’t think he really needed to feature Drake (in Poetic Justice which poetically samples Janet Jackson’s Any Time, Any Place) and don’t really have a favourite track although Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst doesn’t get tiresome at any time, even for a song that is 12 minutes and 4 seconds. With production work from, amongst others, Just Blaze, Pharrell and Hit-Boy, I am hoping that Lamar doesn’t get caught up and uses this as another stepping stone to potential greatness.
There is much talk of the album being a classic. I always lament this desire to find a rap messiah which seems to result in everyone who is better than average being named ‘legend’ or the future of hip hop. I think that we may look back, in years to come, and label good kid, m.A.A.d city a classic album. I believe we should give it, and Kendrick Lamar, time to marinate. It’s a wonderfully put together album. It tells a story in a time when punch lines seem to be the measure of good rap. As with so many great albums, only time will tell.