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Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D City Review

October 24, 2012 | Posted by Tony Acero

1. Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter (Prod. By Tha Bizness)
2. Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe (Prod. By Sounwave)
3. Backseat Freestyle (Prod. By Hit-Boy)
4. The Art of Peer Pressure (Prod. By Tabu)
5. Money Trees (Ft. Jay Rock) (Prod. By DJ Dahi)
6. Poetic Justice (Ft. Drake) (Prod. By Scoop DeVille)
7. good kid [Prod. By Pharrell]
8. m.A.A.d city (Ft. MC Eiht) (Prod. By Sounwave & Terrace Martin)
9. Swimming Pools (Drank) *Extended Version* (Prod. By T-Minus)
10. Sing About Me (Prod. By Skhye Hutch + Sounwave)
10. I’m Dying Of Thirst (Prod. By Like of Pac Div)
11. Real (Ft. Anna Wise) (Prod. By Terrace Martin)
12. Compton (Ft. Dr. Dre) (Prod. By Just Blaze)

13. The Recipe (Ft. Dr. Dre) (Prod. By Scoop DeVille)
14. Black Boy Fly (Prod. By Rahki & Dawaun Parker)
15. Now Or Never (Ft. Mary J. Blige) (Prod. By Jack Splash)
16. Collect Calls
17. Swimming Pools (Drank) (Prod. By T-Minus)

In this world, there are albums and there are ALBUMS. The difference is all in the approach. Kendrick Lamar’s album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is an ALBUM. Lamar takes his life, and his city, and shines a spotlight acrossit all, from gritty to charming. In a little over an hour, he not only revisits the clichés that the city of Compton holds but also turns a lot of them on their head, without once sounding condescending. Kendrick’s abilities have been talked about for a few years now, but never have they been portrayed in such an organized and audibly satisfying manner.

Very rarely can you say that an album can be played front to back with no pause and still be thoroughly enjoyed, but with Lamar’s album, you practically have to follow that particular listening patter, simply because there is a narrative that never once gets off track during the course of the album. In the first track, “Sherane AKA Master Splinters Daughter,” we get a Chapter 1 of sorts as Kendrick introduces us to names, characters, and themes that will become more than familiar by the middle of the album. He speaks of a teenage love and takes us on a trip that bleeds into the next track, which bleeds into the next track, and so on. Inter-spliced within the songs are small skits that give a full-rounded picture of Kendrick as a person, and Compton as a city.

In an uncanny way, Kendrick starts on a focal point in his life and zooms out, but only just a bit for you to see the entire picture that he wants you to see, and nothing more. The album never once leaves the world that he desperately wants to depict, and it makes for a glorious listening session. Moments like “Backseat Freestyle” and “Swimming Pools” may have a thematic element of partying and woman hunting, but it’s done in such a way that’s relatable to listeners. Even the guest stars on the album have strong showings, such as MC Eiht playing a Devil’s advocate of sorts on “M.A.A.D. City,” Drake doing an actual good job rapping on “Poetic Justic” (thank God, they left the singing to a Janet Jackson sample and not Drake),, and even Jay Rock shows up on “Money Trees.”

When people hear that nearly every track has a skit of some sort, they may (t)roll their eyes and get ideas of Nellyville but I assure you that every skit has a purpose and is a vital part of the song it bookends. The few times that his mother speaks on the album were highlights for me, as she damned near made me cry on “Real.” Her message is clear, and even though on the first track you get a glimpse of her that may not seem favorable, you get automatically where the “good kid” gets his goodness.

While the album, from the start, is a strong one, it really picks up the emotional pull midway. Once Track 7 drops, we are invited to how Kendrick views his mistakes as a person, and his city’s downfalls and glories. “Good Kid” is the starting point of what is a trip into Kendrick’s mind that never once becomes uncomfortable. Simply put, it’s truth that he’s spewing, and it has absolutely nothing to do with bouncing booties and Benzes.

With such profound moments in the album, and some crisp storytelling, the album is nearly a perfect ten, but there were a few times, admittedly, when the voice alterations were unnecessary. Of course, that’s more of a personal thing than anything. In some moments, the voice changing that Kendrick does is meant to portray another character, or intense moment, but there are a few tracks where it’s not really needed and bugged me. Also, for whatever reason, “The Art of Peer Pressure’s” opening moments was a bit too snare heavy for me. But if the only two complaints for an album are the aforementioned, than does it really matter!

Compton is literally a seven minute drive from where I live. It’s a place that gets a bad rep, even now, due to the gang activity within coupled with the well known songs that glorify the violence and menace within. Kendrick Lamar officially became the spokesperson for his city and willingly tossed it on his back to carry, and to show us that it’s HIS city, this is his story, and he doesn’t regret any of it. More importantly, he doesn’t shy away from the fact that there is a reason the stereotypes exist, he effectively smacks them in the face and keeps on moving. Songs like “The Art of Peer Pressure,” “Good Kid,” and “M.A.A.D City” all focus not just on Compton, but Kendrick’s Compton, and it’s so vivid with detail that you can’t help but be there, almost as if you’re a part of Kendrick’s crew, waiting and watching as the intense moments and the funny ones intertwine and flesh out a human being; Kendrick Lamar.

The 411: Kendrick Lamar has created an album that will hopefully be talked about for years to come, because it deserves that type of accolade. It's a legendary start to what should be a strong and successful career. This is more than an album; it';s a musical voyage into a man's life that has such emotional range, nearly anyone can relate.
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  9.0   [  Amazing ]  legend

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Tony Acero
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