Wednesday 14 November 2012

RFT Music Reviews: Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d City

Lyrics: 4.8/ 5.0 - Production: 4.3/5.0 - Overall Score: 4.6/5.0

Review by Sahar - Comment/tweet me feedback! - @InTheSummerOf91

Even though I hadn't fully listened to Kendrick Lamar's highly rated mixtape Section 80 until recently, the few odd tracks that I did hear grabbed my attention and sparked my interest in the Compton rapper.The gritty feel of ADHD was promising, and his solid flow on HiiiPower (although admittedly it isn't too great a feat to make one of J Cole's basic ass beats seem ‘hard’) as well as the masterpiece that was independent track Cartoon & Cereal ft. Gunplay pushed Lamar to the forefront of current hip-hop discussion. Point is, I was interested and looking forward to his next project.

Now I say "project" purposefully, because the musical wizardry of Good Kid m.A.A.d City for me composes something more than the regular joe album. ASAP Rocky recently likened Lamar to Nas, and although I'm not too keen on ASAP (or his doodoo braids - it's 2012 love) I stan for Nas, and I can see where the comparison comes from. It's the art of storytelling that made Illmatic indisputable in the hip-hop hall of fame/albums of all time, and it is this that pushes GKMC to the forefront. Lamar himself subtitled the project "a short film", a fitting title as the tracks flow so cohesively you can listen to the story play out before you.

Kendrick Lamar at the Music Matters Tour Toronto
Follow the good kid K.Dot (as his homies call him) through dealing with troublesome girls - "that crazy ass Sherane"; dabbling with drugs, alcohol, and petty crime; getting caught in the crossfire of gang warfare & territorial clashes; to finally succumbing faith. As well as his own skilled lyricism, the narrative is punctuated with voicemail messages from his mother which give us small insights into his home life, revealing a background of poverty and drug use. Religion is an interesting theme in the album, with the opening track beginning with a prayer and the theme of sinning, prayer and Christianity throughout. We aren’t really used to this with previous Lamar work, but for me it didn’t take anything away from the album – I guess how you feel about it is a matter of personal preference or belief.

Now although we see Lamar show off his varying flow on tracks like Backseat Freestyle (which pretty much does what it says on the tin), I must warn you that some of the songs are a little sing-songy, and I'll admit, looking at the track list on the back of the CD (yeah that's right... I said CD), my heart sank a little to see that Mr Ball of Butter/King of All Things Moist better known as Aubrey Graham would be featuring. Even worse, the track is titled Poetic Justice which, let's all be honest now, is an awful film. I mean really, you only ever watched it to keep your "black points" or whatever. Anyway, I thought this is bound to get flicked past, and boy was I wrong. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely the softest track on the album (how else would you get Drake on it?) but within a few seconds of hearing the most perfect sample of one of my favourite tracks - Janet Jackson's Any Time, Any Place - I was sold. And as much as I hate to admit it, Aubrey’s verse wasn’t too bad. I mean it was the same Drake talk, but for once I didn't feel like I was drowning in the usual river of wine, tears and rose petals gushing out of the speakers, and he didn't even say "texting" once! Good on you Driving Miss Drizzy.

Finally, the album ends with an ode to Compton city featuring Dr Dre, who evidently is capable of going to the studio to feature on other people’s albums rather than work on his own, which he appears to be saving for the night before the apocalypse. Admittedly, the album somewhat lacks the vibe I loved on Cartoon & Cereal for example, but overall I was so impressed by GKMC that I wouldn’t think it an exaggeration to call it the best hip-hop album to come out of 2012 – a breath of fresh air and innovation for a generation that believes that “hip-hop is dead.”

My Top 3:
1) The Art of Peer Pressure
2) Money Trees
3) m.A.A.d City

Photo credits:
Kendrick Lamar - Kendrick Lamar Music Matters Tour Toronto 2012 by thecomeupshow

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