good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar

good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar

Top Dawg Entertainment / Aftermath / Interscope, 2012

Kendrick, originally from Compton, is undoubtedly the most influential rapper of the last decade. After a respected but almost forgotten debut album section.80, Kendrick was noticed by Dr. Dre, who took with him and signed him on Aftermath. good kid, M.A.A.D. city marked Kendrick’s major label debut, though he remained close to his original team, Top Dawg Entertainment. With the support of Dr. Dre and the distribution resources of Interscope, Kendrick will be propelled to the forefront with an album as expected as memorable. We all remember Kendrick’s cover with Dr. Dre on XXL magazine, the young rapper’s independent debut is behind him, his arrival on the mainstream scene is imminent, for an album that will be his consecration.

Interview avec XXL magazine

The kid that’s trying to escape that influence, trying his best to escape that influence, has always been pulled back in because of circumstances that be.

I couldn’t tell you what type of sound or where I be in the next five years as far as music… Back to the neighborhood and back in that same space where we used to be, got inspired. So this album won’t sound like Section 80.

While we find the familiar faces with which Kendrick usually surrounds himself, other more known producers make their appearance, Just Blaze, Pharrell Williams, Scoop DeVille or Tha Bizness. One could think that Kendrick will lose his identity of TDE, but it is indeed the producers who adapt, while bringing their usual touches. Kendrick wants to bring out his Compton influences without copying and pasting Section 80, his first album. The Art of Peer Pressure comes back on this slightly G-Funk atmosphere.

The production leads into a kind of darkness with atmospheric beats, sometimes almost solemn. The subtle loops of piano or brass bring a form of deep sweetness, and the drums generate a kind of expansion, where Kendrick shows an incredible ability to adapt on the beats. The atmosphere is strangely reminiscent of ATLiens and Aquemini’s Outkast. We find the coldness of ATLiens’ beats but also the musical complexity of Aquemini. 

However, Kendrick’s origins do not evaporate, the productions sound contemporary but the specters of the West Coast reappear with certain influences, which are felt in the productions. The background is not fundamentally West. Even if he is in conflict with his city, he loves it, and he wants to pay homage to it, the presence of the Compton most wanted rapper, Mc Eiht, shows it. And by the way, the parallel with MC Eiht’s speech is interesting, he was certainly gangsta, but the introspective and remorseful passages are found in Kendrick’s speech, with an energetic production at the beginning evoking a kind of urgency and the drop beat recalling a form of dramaturgy.

GKMC is a story, the story of a kid lost in a city already lost itself. The paradox of loving your city while being homesick. GKMC is an autobiography where Kendrick presents various aspects of his life but also the internal conflict that resides within him about his childhood in his hometown. He discusses the detrimental effects of this city on the local people ranging from gang wars, oppression of women to economic hardship. The moral values of the family are ultimately his main shelter, the family is his own refuge and what guides him away from the temptations of this city. However, he believes that this same city is deteriorating family values with all the negative aspects that come with it.

Kendrick is excellent, poignant, genuine, with intelligent storytelling, without being sanctimonious or even whiny. His story allows him to very skillfully critique various aspects of his city plagued by violence and poverty, and the multiple moral dilemmas that can arise from it. He believes in moral and family values, but his beloved city is corrupting him. His stories and characters are compelling, his storytelling and emotion reminiscent of some of his predecessors, notably a certain Slick Rick. His ability to adopt different voices depending on the characters he interprets is also reminiscent of the latter.

If we remove the incredible Compton with Dr. Dre, the real final track of this story, Real, concludes the album wonderfully. As Aceyalone had done before him, this last track goes back to the definition of what it is to be “real” with the warnings of his parents about the dangers of the city. But what’s even more interesting is the triumphant victory of family values over the ease of falling into delinquency. Kendrick’s story shows that he understood the poignant message of his father and mother.

Kendrick’s mother

If I don’t hear from you, by tomorrow…
I hope you come back, and learn from your mistakes.
Come back a man, tell your story to these black and brown kids in Compton.
Let ’em know you was just like them, but you still rose from that dark place of violence, becoming a positive person.
But when you do make it, give back, with your words of encouragement,
And that’s the best way to give back.
To your city… And I love you Kendrick,
If I don’t hear you knocking on the door you know where I usually leave the key. Alright? talk to you later, bye.

good kid, m.A.A.d city is a 2010s classic, a beautiful story with great narrative quality. The album represents the victory of the moral values of the family against violence. The victory of a lost child who, despite the easy way, does not give in to the temptations of a perverting city.

By Grégoire Zasa

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