good kid m.A.A.d city: the most important rap album of the past 5 years
Granted, the title of this article is a bit ambitious but it’s for good reason. On Monday the 22nd, the debut studio album for Kendrick Lamar good kid m.A.A.d city is set to drop. Since today is Friday the 19th, that means, yes I downloaded the leak. Smh. But not to fear, because I will certainly be purchasing a copy come Monday and you should too. I won’t go track by track, since it hasn’t come out yet but you’ll get the gist of it.
I was talking to someone about this album a few weeks ago, and they asked me, “well what if it’s not good?” and I told them if it wasn’t then I would give up hope for hip-hop as a genre. I said that because I felt if this album couldn’t bring honesty and integrity back into the art form known as hip-hop then no album (moreso no artist) could either. Luckily K.Dot not only didn’t dissapoint, but made an album that if supported by us could really change the whole culture in hip-hop. It can bring us back to a place that made the music so enjoyable in the first place, a place that transcends just about everything except our humanity.
Unlike most hip-hop albums GKMC is a concept album, and in many ways serves as a conversation between K.Dot and whoever listens about his life. About his experiences growing up, how they influenced him, confused him and brought the best and worst out of the Compton born artist. The content of the album is more than surface deep lyrics, instead the album’s concept and Kendrick’s commentary on said concept is a psychological dive into the minds of anyone growing up in an American city. Topics ranging from dealing with first love, the youth’s exposure to alcohol/drugs, their exposure to violence, self worth, self love, peer pressure and really, just the culture that is breeded within our cities and as a result our youth. The album does all these things without Kendrick coming off as a conspiracy theorist, rather a once innocent mind that has been exposed to all these horrors and has survived to tell the story and encourage others to follow his lead. Ala 2pac’s ‘rose through concrete’ dissertation. Peppered throughout the album also, are skits of what we can assume is K.Dot’s mother and father leaving voicemails on his phone throughout the journey of the album (Kendrick’s life) serving not only as parents nagging their son, but guiding him; raising him even in the midst of the evil he encounters everyday. The fact that both of his parents are present to leave these voicemails is telling as well. In an obvious way of Kendrick having both parents around, and tying more into the concept of the album of the good kid. The other skits on the album are from the opposite side of the spectrum, we hear recordings of Kendrick with his friends basically up to no kind of good; whether it’s them talking about going to break the law, drink, smoke it is the very thing his parents are attempting to guide him through.
A skeptic might say, these concepts are too sophisticated for the general public to grasp, but what makes K.Dot such a dynamic artist, is that he can appeal to (as he would say) “good kids and criminals, worrisome individuals who..” but I digress. The album has the bust your face open beats, that Kendrick gets his ignorant on (which isn’t true ignorance, more satirical ignorance) and also has the spacey, Outkast sounding beats in which Kendrick shows off his intellect and analytical prowess, and changes the pitch and speed of his voice, very similarly to how Andre 3000 used to do. The features of the album range from Jay Rock, to Drake, to Mary J. Blige just to name several. GKMC is very versatile and incredibly organic in a time when hip-hop has become very straightforward and artificial.
The album’s greatest quality is the challenge it presents to the listener. It forces you as a listener to take a step back and take a look at the culture that we are apart of, that hip-hop contributes to. I mean really take a look, as the album seems to point to the suggestion that we (the hip-hop culture) are exposed to and consequently embrace a culture that teaches us to kill ourselves, to not love ourselves, and to put value into things that aren’t even real (In fact, the song ‘Real’ pretty much sums up the full message of the album). The final challenge it presents is to rise above, despite the destructive culture, the album in itself is ‘a rose through concrete’ in today’s hip-hop culture.
To close I’ll just say this, GO BUY IT! Kendrick’s attempt to resurrect the culture in hip-hop can only succeed if we support the music. This could be the album that changes everything! But ultimately it’s up to us, to YOU, the audience.
Tracks that highlight this album: All of them. Really though.