There isn’t really anything that I can say here that will do this record justice. Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is the 2nd studio album by Compton rapper, Kendrick Lamar. Good Kid tells the autobiographical story of a day in the life of a young Kendrick Lamar Duckworth growing up in the streets of Compton. What details of the story are accurate and what are fabricated is up for discussion, but we will never know and it frankly does not matter. Over the course of 68 minutes Kendrick gives us a striking, powerful, personal, and lyrical coming of age story the likes of which the world is not likely to forget anytime soon. Kendrick, the Crown Prince of Compton and, according to some, the entire rap game, carries on the legacy of the late Tupac Shakur, referencing Pac’s “Rose that grew from the concrete” motif with lyrics “If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room would you trust it?”. Kendrick asks us if we truly believe that something beautiful can come from such a cruel background. This is the central theme and question of Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City; even though Kendrick is a good kid, will he be able to survive the gang violence, addiction, and other perils of the streets of Compton? If he does will the city have broken him, making him just like the gang members he fears? Can a rose spring forth from the cracks in the concrete? If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room would you trust it?
Good Kid is part of a rare type of album: the narrative album. While plenty of albums have unifying themes, recurring motifs, and tell little stories within the songs, the tracks on Kendrick’s 2012 album all are pieces of a greater story. So lyrically dense and masterfully crafted, Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is being studied in an English Composition class at Georgia Regents University. That’s true, you can look it up. The narrative isn’t horribly complex, but it requires focus to keep up with. Through his lyrical prowess and brief interludes made up of voicemails from Kendrick’s parents and Kendrick’s friends talking to him and one another, Kendrick navigates us through a formative day in his young life. Kendrick tries to hook up with a girl who lives in gang territory, is peer pressured into abusing substances and committing crimes by his closest, and seemingly only, friends, gets caught in the crossfire of senseless gang violence, loses a friend, and finds God in a Save-a-Lot parking lot. Very few pieces of music have driven me to tears, but the Sinner’s Prayer at the end of “Sing About Me/I’m Dying of Thirst” has broken me.
While Good Kid is terrifically produced, the obvious winner of this album is Kendrick and his otherworldly lyrical prowess. It is rare that an artist is able to rap so technically, sound good, tell a clear story, and include plenty of metaphors and references to rap history as well as the Bible. There is a good reason that Kendrick Lamar is in the discussion for greatest rapper alive, and Good Kid, m.A.A.d City is a testament to his ability. While it would be easy for me to sit here and tell you how awesome Kendrick is using buzzwords, I won’t. Please, go listen to this record, and I understand that its style isn’t quite for everyone, but it is an experience worth having. The record speaks for itself. Instead of rambling about the record itself, I want to share about my own personal experience with it.
Kendrick Lamar is important to me, personally. While the quality of his music has done much to form my taste in music, Kendrick has also gotten to me through his narratives and helped me better understand other parts of America and the world. It’s easy to be very close-minded and sheltered being a white male from a rural farm community who never had to worry about my next meal or whether my parents would come home from work safely. I’ve been very fortunate, and I know that, and while a piece of music can only impart so much, Kendrick Lamar’s music and stories are so personal and powerful that I find myself studying them again and again. While I’ll never be able to fully understand the experience that Kendrick had growing up, he has helped me think about the world differently and at the very least be able to sympathize.
Kendrick is a generational talent, I really believe that. The 3 major albums Kendrick released in the 2010’s all have a case as the best album of the decade, and while I’m partial to To Pimp a Butterfly, my understanding is that most people consider Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City to be Kendrick’s magnum opus.
More than just an important album, Good Kid, m.A.A.d City offers a meaningful experience. I love this album, it had an impact on my life, and now I’m excited to listen to it again for this, the last day of this month’s Musical Training Plan. I can’t promise that this record will affect you like it has me, but I still hope that you enjoy it. God Bless, stay Real. Here’s to Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City.
DJ Boogie, counting my blessings and preparing for next month’s training plan. Thanks for reading.