"A Good Kid in a Maad City? Kendrick Becomes King"
by Mark Tomlinson
From Compton to Hollywood? Only takes about a 45-minute drive. But for a man named Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, otherwise known as Kendrick Lamar, it took a good nine years of blood, sweat, and tears in the booth to make it there. With his major label debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, released on October 22, 2012, Kendrick assorted to heights never seen before. After selling a whopping 242,000 copies the first week, the album was met with critical acclaim hailing from sources such as Rolling Stone, Billboard, and (the always controversial) XXL. Pitchfork ranked it #2 of “The 100 Best Albums of the Decade So Far (2010-)” and the album would be blessed with five Grammy Award nominations before getting snubbed from every one thanks to Macklemore (shout out to white privilege and the white majority). I mean don’t get me wrong, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis`s The Heist was a solid album, but it didn’t deserve as much praise as it did for being a great “rap” album. Maybe it should’ve been thrown into an indie/pop category, but that’s an argument for another post. But regardless of being robbed from receiving a Grammy (Kendrick would come back stronger with TPAB), this album proved its worth and NEED in the hip-hop community from not only the west coast (i.e.: Snoop Dogg passing Kendrick the torch, etc.), but all around the world where hip hop reached and touched its surface.
Kendrick`s trailblazing rise to success comes from an album centered around the day in a life of a young K. Dot who rides around between his momma`s van and his homie`s white Toyota doing miscellaneous crimes and dealing with the hardships of these Compton streets trying to find who he is. From the portrayal of these crimes and emotions that Kendrick sends through the lyrics he spits, this album is a raw west coast introduction to Lamar`s adolescents in the CPT. The album kicks off with the first track entitled “Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter`s Daughter,” in which Kendrick raps over a low-fi beat about the lust he has for this girl named Sherane. Being a girl born from a crack addict mother and whose family has a reputable history of gang banging, Lamar becomes suspicious of her but not enough to stop him from trying to get a nut. This is where his downward spiral begins right before the song is cut off.
The joy ride of the album doesn’t pick up until the fourth track entitled “The Art of Peer Pressure.” The great narrative aspect of the album comes in motion where Kendrick is peer pressured into completing a “mission” by successfully pulling off a home invasion with his homies. Harsh realities set in when the sun goes down and K. Dot and his homies take anything they can get their hands on from Nintendo’s to DVD`s to plasma screens. His passiveness is what leads to the irony that he’s never been violent “until he’s with the homies.”
After getting jumped by two gang members on Sherane`s turf far off from Compton (no surprise), Lamar realizes his realities and his only desire is to make it out of Compton alive. With both halves of the album title split into two back to back tracks, “good kid” and “m.A.A.d city,” the album comes into full fruition. Both tracks relate to Kendrick slipping into the cracks from being harassed by gang members for being a “good kid” and facing police brutality because of his brown skin. Not belonging to a specific color leads him into a more troublesome lifestyle that he wasn’t made for. The meaning behind telling his story is so he can shed a light to those kids in Compton who were just like him. Knowing that they can be the rose that grew from the concrete and not succumb to the gang life filling their bodies with toxins and becoming sacrifices to the streets.
A modern day classic? A masterpiece? Hard to believe that currently a new MC put into the game can release a game changing album that’s his major label debut. In a genre that has been and still is over saturated with mumble rap and radio friendly pop substitutes, Kendrick proves that real hip hop isn’t dead and that he is one of the only few left in the game keeping the sport of rap alive. An album that touches on the hardships of young adolescents, growing up in the hood and realizing they can rise above their harsh realities and turn a shoulder to gang life is VERY NECESSARY to reach out not only to true hip hop fans, but kids coming of age who live by the lyrics and lifestyles that surround their everyday life. Being real and true to yourself while having self-love will bring your true talents and life`s purpose into existence and bring good to the world we live in. Back in 2012 they said it would be too soon to call this album a classic. After passing the album`s 4-year anniversary, it’s clear to say that good kid, m.A.A.d city was ahead of its time and would place Kendrick into the conversation of The Greatest of All Time to ever pick up a mic. This album was for the world and it`s ultimately what crowned Kendrick king on top of it.