What does a good movie have to do to engage you as a viewer? Contain a good plot? Some character development along the way? Maybe even some comedic moments sprinkled on top? Now, what makes a good rap album? Some bragadocious rhymes? Rapping about what everyone else in the game raps about? Although sometimes Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar dips his pen into the “good rap album” section of this intro, it seems like he went ahead and penned the next great hood drama, entitled good kid, m.A.A.d. city.
good kid is filled to the brim with quality hip-hop, telling the story of Kendrick’s life in the city of Compton, told through his own life experiences. “Backseat Freestyle” is the only point on the album where Kendrick is a little bit bragadocious, but it ends up being one of the catchiest tracks on the album. That’s followed up by “The Art Of Peer Pressure,” which starts like an old school Snoop Doggy Dogg sort of beat, but turns into this depressing inner monologue where Kendrick admits that he wouldn’t be doing bad things if it wasn’t for his “homies.” “Swimming Pools (Drank)” is a monotinous trip into alchoholism, where the act of drinking sounds as repetitive as the chorus makes it out to be. Even Drake, someone who I am no fan of, comes in on the love song “Poetic Justice” and kills it, with both of them pronouncing their love for their girls with a fantastic beat and almost sappy lyrics.
There’s a reason why the album is subtitled with “A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar;” it’s because this whole album is one giant story. The skits that fit in between the album stitches each of the songs together, making everything fit perfectly with each other. The third and fourth track “Backseat Freestyle” and “The Art Of Peer Pressure” would make no sense if there wasn’t some sort of act getting thrown in there. Same goes for “good kid” and “m.A.A.d. city” and the really out of place “Real.” A song THAT happy following the twelve minute “Sing For Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst”, where one character in the story gets shot before finishing his verse. The skits provide back story for the listeners, which makes the story Kendrick wants to tell come off incredibly clear for it’s format. Thought there are some moments that hearken back to his Section .80 days, anyone should be able to get into the message of the album without a hitch.
From beginning to end, good kid, m.A.A.d. city is the most cinematic, conceptual, and cohesive rap album that has come out this year. In fact, it’s probably the most solid album of the year. Each track added an element to the story, painting a rather murky image for us the listener to gawk at. The final track “Compton (feat. Dr. Dre)” ends with Kendrick yelling at his mom that he’d be back in 15 minutes, prompting the repetition of the album. Trust me, you’d want to have multiple listenings to this work of art.
Final Grade: A
Go Download: The entire thing – the singles won’t make sense without everything else.