I felt compelled to give extra consideration to today’s album, “good kid, m.A.A.d city” by Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick is either at, or very near, the top of my son’s all-time list of hip-hop performers, and even as my limited exposure and reaction to his music before this was mixed, I knew this experience mandated an extended contemplation. I can report favorably as I found a lot to like in this album, more than I had expected, and I now have a much greater appreciation for the high degree of regard there is for his music to this day. This release is the #115 rated album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
There is a lot of low-fi mellowness to this record, particularly in the beginning, and the first two tracks, “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, set an autobiographical and subdued tone as the album begins. The second song was intended to be a collaboration with Lady Gaga, but that did not ultimately occur due to creative and business challenges. There are demo versions online with Gaga, and it would have been great if this could have been realized, as they do sound great.
For me, the album really elevates on the third song, “Backstreet Freestyle”. The intensely deep bass beat hits like a hammer, and for the first time, I’m coming at Kendrick Lamar with a similar appreciation as his fanbase. The greatness continues with “The Art of Peer Pressure” is a softer yet funkier groove. Then comes the third awesome song in row, “Money Trees”, featuring Jay Rock. I think this song in particular showcases the smooth and highly capable MC style of Kendrick.
“Poetic Justice” is interesting as it features a sample of Janet Jackson, and many of us will recall the film of the same name featuring Jackson and Tupac. This song brings Drake on for a verse, and the two pair up well on this slow-jam groove. Another favorite from this album is “m.A.A.d city”, featuring MC Eiht, with its eerie and powerful main verse. This song is a mandatory volume blast and addition to my hip-hop playlist.
The Compton foundation is strong on this record. Dr. Dre appears and is a key production force in “Compton” as well as “The Recipe”, which was the first single, even as it was only a bonus track on some versions of the record. The despair and connectivity back to the world of Death Row is a presence, but it has a fresh and contemporary feel on both of these songs. I love both of them, and they only add to what is already a great record.
Overall, this album greatly exceeded my expectations, and given the magnitude of importance it holds in the world of hip-hop, I shouldn’t be that surprised. I’m grateful for this much deeper dive into the music of Kendrick Lamar, and the many future listens I hope to share with my son.