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Kendrick Lamar is not the first of his kind. Not by a long shot. But he is the first of that kind to break into the popular rap game in about a decade. Which maybe says something about the scene right now. And maybe that something, isn’t very positive.
Born and raised in Compton, California, Kendrick Lamar grew up struggling. He was torn between the life he wanted to lead, one of sobriety and success, and the life his friends and everyone around him seemed destined to. That struggle, and his subsequent rise above it, is exactly what his debut studio album is all about.
Released on Oct. 22, good Kid, m.A.A.d City is already drawing comparisons to such prominent albums as Nas’ Illmatic and Tupac’s Me Against the World. It’s been called a “classic,” an album that “speaks for our generation,” “one of the years best.” But those are claims that take time to assess. Months, years even. How can an album be called a classic hours after its release? I don’t like to talk about what things might be, I like to talk about what they are. And what good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is, is good. Really good. It’s honest and raw and complex and emotional, and anyone who’s been following Lamar since his first mixtape, 2010′s Overly Dedicated, would expect only that.
good Kid, m.A.A.d City is the story of Lamar’s rise to adulthood, and an intimate look at his home life, growing up. With the album, Lamar brings the focus of storytelling back to hip-hop, he opens up his inner-most thoughts and fears and splays them on the table for the world to see, and that’s exactly the point. “What ‘Pac showed me was really not being scared to show vulnerability in your music, because that makes the biggest connection with the audience,” he says in an interview with Power 106. “When I speak on certain topics about certain friends or my homeboys or a certain female, it’s not only real to me, but it’s real to the listener.”
What I will say about the implications of this album, and what it could be, is that that attitude. That openness and emotional vulnerability and risk taking is how “classics” come to be. They exist because they offer something different. Something that can’t be obtained in many other places. They offer humanity. The rap game right now often focuses on an act, a character being played throughout an album, an emcee will take on multiple personalities in an effort to flex their creative muscle and attempt honesty through a number of facades. Well, Lamar drops those facades entirely, and frankly it’s refreshing.
The album opens on a home scene. It’s a recording of a family sitting down to dinner and saying a prayer. A recording, presumably, of Lamar’s family. These personal scenes are interspersed throughout the record and come in different forms, but mostly from phone calls with his mother.
On “The Art of Peer Pressure” one such moment occurs when his mother calls right at the climax of the action. “Hello? What you doing?,” she asks. “Kickin’ it,” he responds. Followed by the verse, “I shoulda told her I’m probably about to catch my first offense, with the homies.”
For Lamar, the road to good Kid, m.A.A.d City began in 2010, when, following the release of OD Dr. Dre came calling. After Lamar worked with Dre and Snoop Dogg on Detox, people really started talk. In early 2011, Lamar was named a member of XXL Magazine‘s Freshman Class alongside Meek Mill, Lil B, Big K.R.I.T., and others. In July of that year, Lamar released Section .80.
Below, we put together a playlist of some tracks off of both OD and Section .80, ones that we feel, in particular, brought him to this point. Something missing? Rebuttals? Let us know in the comments box.
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