The plight of the young black person, especially the male, is one that’s been documented heavily and, as time has gone on, the line between informative and sensationalist has been blurred almost beyond recognition. With the release of Kendrick Lamar’s proper debut album, Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, Kendrick has reminded us all that there is still a way to tell the story of the lost and hopeless youth properly.
Since Kendrick Lamar came on the scene, he’s been a force in hip-hop; telling gritty street tales about people who don’t get to see the storm clouds dissipate. Through Overly Dedicated, Section80 and now Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, Kendrick has painted vivid portraits of the ugliness, beauty and everything in between when it comes to being young, black and broke.
First of all, understand the subtitle “A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar” isn’t some cheeky title. It’s not him being like other rappers who swear up and down that whatever they do “IS A MOVIE MAN!!” No. Throughout the album little documentary-like snippets of “a day in the life” of young K. Dot in the hood tell a tragic yet hopeful story of young kids living in a warzone and learning to adapt. The music itself provide the soundtrack of that story. Songs like “Sherane AKA Master Splinter’s Daughter”, “The Art of Peer Pressure”, “Good Kid”, “m.A.A.d City”, and “Sing about me/I’m Dying of Thirst” are showcases of perfected storytelling–“Sing about me” especially, with it’s dual perspectives including one from the sister of Keisha from “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)”.
With songs like, “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, “Money Trees”, and “Backseat Freestyle”, Kendrick shows he can make songs that are all swagger and still have your brain working; and with “Poetic Justice”, Kendrick makes his standard vie for the mainstream without straining too hard to sound radio friendly or deviating from the vibe of the album (plus it’s just a good ass song, Janet Jackson’s “Anytime, Anyplace” sample? Yes please).
You don’t often get to hear albums that cause you to really go into deep contemplation about life and you’re place in it or the meaning behind it–hell, you don’t really get to hear “albums” anymore. In a A.D.D.-fueled time when music is released on a minute to minute basis and you’re only as relevant as when you released your last single, K. Dot made a true album to tell the story of his city. Time will tell, Where Good Kid, m.A.A.d City will be seen amongst the great Rap Albums of all time lists, but for now I’m just incredibly happy to feel this good about Hip-Hop again.