The Score: "[good kid, m.A.A.d city's] One Of The Most Dynamic Debuts Hip-Hop's Seen In Ages"

Tuesday, Oct 23, 2012 2:06PM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

THE SCORE 8.7/10
Buy Now
  • good kid, mA.A.d city
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • October 23, 2012
RedEye Chicago 4/4
Chicago Tribune 3.5/4
Crave Online 8.5/10
Idolator 4/5
The Guardian 4/5

Each year the West Coast delivers something so ground-breaking, it demands attention. In recent years, it has been Odd Future and Kreayshawn but no artist has offered more promise from an emcee standpoint than Kendrick Lamar which is proven with his long-awaited new good kid, m.A.A.d city studio album debut.

Stemming right from the streets of Compton, California, Kendrick Lamar finally delivers his delayed solo effort.

Following 2011's powerhouse Section.80 a barrage of stellar sample spots and endorsements from the biggest players in the game, K-Dot's been in a position of sky-high expectation for months. And on Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, Lamar takes the momentum and folds it into one of the most dynamic full-length debuts Hip-Hop has seen in ages. His imaginative and sensationally versatile flow changes like the weather in tornado season, with a lyrical design that reflects on having tasted the street life and opted for the high road. (Crave Online)

The project serves as his latest offering after a handful of mixtapes and indie release.

Lamar's major-label debut, probably the year's most significant hip-hop release, proves his talent to be as prodigious as his online output - the 25-year-old has released five mixtapes and one independent album to date. Like his mentor, Dr Dre , Lamar comes from Compton in California, but catalogues his experience of that neighbourhood with a lyrical precision and cool remove at odds with the "harsh realities we in". Syncretising old and new, he's right to conclude: "Now we can all celebrate/ We can all harvest the rap artists of NWA." (The Guardian)

Lamar relies on a thematic story-telling approach to his Aftermath debut.

Enter Kendrick Lamar. For those of you who haven't heard of this kid, he's a Dr. Dre co-signed anomaly to the modern rap game, as he blends dizzying wordplay (not to mention fluctuations in his voice) with a clearly defined narrative. Following 2011's "Section.80," his second major release "good kid, m.A.A.d city"--according to Lamar, the acronym stands for "my Angry Adolescent divide"--showcases his ability to tell a story and tell it well. Kendrick borrows his parents' van and goes for a drive through Compton, his home town. Along the way, he encounters women ("Sherane aka Master Splinter's Daughter"), meets up with his friends ("The Art of Peer Pressure") and even gets into an issue with a rival gang (addressed with absolute fury on "m.a.a.d city" featuring legendary California gangsta rapper MC Eiht). (Red Eye Chicago)

Kendrick places ample emphasis on speaking up for his Compton peers.

Every rapper likes to think they've got their whole city on their back. As if, just by being a talented artist from some loaded locale and making the leap in logic that your story is important, it actually bodes well for the rest of the jerks in your hometown. If you shine, everybody shines, right? This is the assumption that Kendrick Lamar's major-label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, ambitiously confounds. The best way to put on for your city, it turns out, is to drop the martyr complex, display some empathy, and give a voice to as many individuals as possible. (SPIN)

The West Coast emcee's new LP has sprinkles of star-studded talent including Dr. Dre, Drake and Pharrell.

So despite being overseen by Dr. Dre and having contributions from industry heavyweights like Drake and Pharrell , there's little here to suggest the LP was made with commercialism in mind. This is both a good and a bad thing (and explains why that Lady Gaga collaboration didn't make the cut ). It's good because it gives K-Dot the freedom to indulge all his musical whims, harnessing his lyrical finesse over jazzy interludes, Beach House samples (on "Money Trees") and funky West Coast thuds. "Sing About Me" finds K-Dot spitting over coffeehouse music like some early '90s throwback -- something that, these days, packs more punch than hearing yet another MC bark over 808s and skittering claps. (Idolator)

While his LP received nearly perfect ratings, some critics still noted minor issues.

The current rap-wagon rush to include Drake on every release is ill-informed, and K-Dot's album suffers from the inclusion of the nasal-brat Mr. Cupcake on "Poetic Justice". The Janet sample pulls the track out of the fire, however, alongside an irresistible beat. In further complaint, Pharrell steps in it a bit with a weak dream-hum beat on "Good Kid," as Kendrick laments the trapdoors of life in a tumbling flow that crams the syllables into every breath. Redemption arrives quickly, however, on follow-up track "M.A.A.D. City," with a beat change-up that's pure gold amidst ultra-violent lyricism and a strong verse from guest MC Eiht. (Crave Online)
The sonic mix-and-match keeps the album unpredictable, but also leads to some bloat, with seemingly more attention paid to lengthy spoken interludes than to potent hooks. Several songs feel half-formed and meandering -- for instance, "Real" is a ridiculous 7:24. And on "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe," K-Dot leans on that title line to the point of annoyance. These moments aren't helped when Lamar breaks into a nasally, Urkel-esque voice for some of the sing-songy parts. (Idolator)

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