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Kendrick Lamar, ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ – Album Review

Kendrick Lamar is a 25-year-old rap wunderkind who seems to have no problem being the flag bearer for true lyricism and content in hip-hop music. K-Dot’s Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope debut ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ is a stellar conceptual album about his life and times in Compton, Calif.

On the collection, Lamar gives us a picturesque view of his thoughts, motives and feelings about the environment he is living in. Over diverse productions by producers T-Minus, Hit-Boy, Terrace Martin, Just Blaze, Scoop DeVille and others, ‘good kid’ is a pure west coast album.

The highlight of the entire LP is Lamar’s imaginative story-telling skills. None of his narratives sound too contrive or over the top. We follow K-Dot as he starts off the album being a horny little kid (‘Sherane’), then segues into a rambunctious teenager (‘The Art of Peer Pressure’), then an introspective adult (‘Swimming Pools’), and finally, being the prince of his city (‘Compton’).

Lamar’s ‘good kid, m.A.A.D. city’ is his full-circle moment. It’s a worthy album that belongs in the pantheon of previous west-coast masterpieces like Snoop Dogg‘s ‘Doggystyle,’ Dr. Dre‘s ‘The Chronic,’ Tupac Shakur‘s ’2Pacalypse Now’ and Ice Cube’s ‘AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted’ and ‘Death Certificate.’

We suggest you grab a copy of the deluxe version as it features three bonus tracks including the feel-good song ‘Now or Never’ (featuring Mary J. Blige) and the banging introspective track, ‘Black Boy Fly.’

Listen/stream Kendrick Lamar’s ‘good kid, m.A.A.d. city’ HERE.

1. ‘Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter’
The album kicks off with K-Dot telling a compelling story of meeting a fine young lady named Sherane at a house party who also has a reputation of getting around. Lamar steals his mother’s van with hopes of an early morning tryst with Sherane.

2. ‘B—-, Don’t Kill My Vibe’
On this laid-back track, Lamar gets reflective about maintaining his credibility as an artist yet being surrounded by people who seem to want to kill his vibe. “I’m trying to keep it alive and not compromise the feeling we love / You trying to keep it deprived and only co-sign what radio does / And I’m looking right past ya,” he spits.

3. ‘Backseat Freestyle’
Produced by Hit-Boy, the clanking beat bangs from Compton to New York. The braggadocios track features K-Dot spitting grandiose rhymes of money, b—-es and guns. The song may seem out of character for Lamar, but we think he’s just having fun with his homies. [Listen Here]

4. ’The Art of Peer Pressure’
On this compelling track, the Compton lyricist recalls running the streets “bulls—-ing” and “acting fool” with his homies. It eventually leads to him breaking into a home and stealing goods, much to his chagrin. Lamar doesn’t glamorize the home invasion, instead he chalks it up to being an adolescent kid doing dumb s—.

5. ‘Money Trees’ Feat. Jay Rock
Lamar recaps his day in Compton, Calif., while dreaming of becoming a major rap star. After f—ing Sherane (‘Sherane’), spitting a freestyle (‘Backseat Freestyle’) and burglarizing a home with his homies (‘The Art of Peer Pressure’), he realizes that he must take a different path in his life. “It go Halle Berry or hallelujah / Pick your poison tell me what you do / Everybody gonna respect the shooter / But the one in front of the gun lives forever,” he raps.

6. ‘Poetic Justice’ Feat. Drake
Produced by Scoop DeVille, the tune slyly samples Janet Jackson‘s ‘Any Time, Any Place.’ Although Sherane is considered the neighborhood trollop, Lamar has feelings for her and hopes she realizes that she can find love within herself and not in other people. He recites, “Love is not just a verb / It’s you looking in the mirror / Love is not just a verb, It’s you looking poor maybe / Call me crazy, We can both be insane.” [Listen Here]

7. ‘good kid’
A prelude to the second-half of the album, Lamar takes listeners on a journey of the gang culture, poverty and childhoods being lost in his neighborhood. The soulful groove was produced by Pharrell Williams.

8. ‘m.A.A.d city’ Feat. MC Eiht
A big standout on the album. K-Dot and MC Eiht turn it up a notch with a captivating story about a robbery gone awry and a horrible experience smoking marijuana laced with cocaine. The orchestral productions boost the urgency of the song. We give it two big thumbs up.

9. ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’ [Extended Version]
The T-Minus-produced tune is a fan favorite and a captivating listen. On the cautionary ode about alcoholism, Lamar reminisces as a kid seeing adults drinking so much liquor that it could easily fill a swimming pool. Now an adult, the Compton MC sees himself doing the same exact thing. Can he stop the cycle of abuse? Additive bonus: Lamar tacts on an extra verse at the end of the song.

10. ‘Sing About Me’/ ‘I’m Dying of Thirst’
An 11-minute song that harks back to the cautionary song ‘Keisha’s Song’ from Lamar’s first album ‘Section.80.’ On the second verse, K-Dot apologizes to Keisha’s sister for rapping about the details of her untimely death. The haunting ‘I’m Dying of Thirst’ follows with the rapper giving us a picturesque view of violence that engulfs his neighborhood, including the slaying of his dear friend. It’s a good song, but at 11 minutes, it’s a taxing listen.

11. ‘Real’ Feat. Anna Wise 
Produced by Terrace Martin, Lamar explores the different factors of love from the perspective of a woman, a man and himself. In the end, he concludes that loving yourself is the only important factor in life.

12. ’Compton’ Feat. Dr. Dre
‘Compton’ sounds like a west coast version of ‘Rocky,’ as Lamar takes a victory lap, raises his fist in the air and yells, “I’ve made it!” At age 25, K-Dot has escape the perils of the ‘hood and is now celebrating his newfound success. “Now we can all celebrate / We can all harvest the rap artists of NWA / America target our rap market / It’s controversy and hate / Harsh realities, we made our music translate / To the coke dealers, the hood rich, and the broke n—as that play,” he raps.

Deluxe Edition:
13. ’The Recipe’ Feat. Dr. Dre 
Throw your W’s up! This a fantastic track produced by Scoop DeVille and features K-Dot saluting his beloved sunshine state of California. Even Dr. Dre spits an incredible verse on this certified street banger. ‘The Recipe’ is one of the best songs of 2012.

14. ‘Black Boy Fly’
Another stellar track. On it, Lamar gives props to NBA player Arron Afflalo and rapper Game for getting out of the ‘hood to become successful artists in their respective fields yet repping their hometown of Compton to the fullest. “So I’m saying, ‘What up what up. N—a you made it,’” he raps.

15. ‘Now or Never’ Feat. Mary J. Blige
A feel-good song that will make you want to do the two-step and pop a bottle of champagne. The Compton rapper is happy to be alive and excited to see that his hard work is finally paying off. “Tell success ‘Hello,’ we here,” he raps. It’s well deserved.

16. ‘Collect Calls’
On this echoic-sounding track, K-Dot paints a harrowing portrait of a young male facing a lengthy prison sentence as he’s desperately tries to get in contact with his mother, but she won’t accept his collect calls.

17. ’Swimming Pools (Drank)’
It’s the original version without the extra verse (see song No. 9).

Next: Check Out the Top Hip-Hop Songs of 2012 (So Far)

Watch Kendrick Lamar Perform ‘Swimming Pools’ on ‘Conan’

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