Every now and then an album comes along that completely changes the way we think about hip-hop. Now I’m not going to suggest that good kid m.A.A.d. city is one of those albums right off the bat, but I will say that this future classic certainly merits the discussion. In an era where the most relevant rappers are often more renowned for their swag rather than their actual abilities as an MC, Kendrick Lamar has distinguished himself as one of the few artists that is truly celebrated based upon the content of his music and GKMC deliberately shows listeners why that is the case.
One thing that separates a classic album from projects that do not stand the test of time is attention to detail. From noteworthy engineering on songs like “m.A.A.d. city” and “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst” to the most cohesive and actually significant skits on a rap album since Kanye West’s The College Dropout, GKMC is full of attention to detail and to the seasoned rap listener, it does not go unnoticed.
GKMC begins with “Sherane A.K.A. Master Splinter’s Daughter.” Somewhat contrary to the conscious tone he addressed the subject of women with on songs like “Keisha’s Song” and “No Make Up” off his last album Section 80, Kendrick spits from the perspective of his seventeen year-old self trying to get his nut off on “Sherane,” yet he still finds a way to make chasing p*ssy sound as poetic as a love song. And while K-Dot commendably showcases his storytelling skills over soulful yet gloomy production from Tha Bizness, “Sherane” is just an afterthought once you hear the track right after it, “B*tch Don’t Kill My Vibe.” This smoother than smooth joint right here is arguably the best song on the album which is sort of surprising because when you think of Kendrick’s best songs, the socially conscious ones (HiiPower, His Pain ect) are usually the first to come to mind, not the L smoking, drink sippin, relax and just chill music. That’s not to say that Kendrick hasn’t made good records to kick it and get high to (Blow My High, ADHD), but he certainly hasn’t made any that were this good.
The next song on the album is “Backseat Freestyle.” Kendrick just kind of goes off on this one as he spits bar after bar with an unusual amount of aggression. In fact, K-Dot almost sounds more like his Black Hippy counterpart ScHoolboy Q on “Backseat Freestyle” apposed to his normal laid back and mellow persona. Speaking of the Black Hippy crew, I know I wasn’t the only one to surprised to learn that neither ScHoolboy Q nor Ab-Soul were featured on GKMC. However, Jay Rock makes an appearance on the track “Money Trees” and not only holds his own against Kendrick, but one could make the argument that he out spits him. Granted Kendrick doesn’t really flex his lyrical muscles to their full potential on “Money Trees,” but that doesn’t mean his verses aren’t dope. Similar to what he did on Section 80‘s “ADHD” by saying “f*ck dot” instead of “f*ck that,” Kendrick alters his pronunciation of the word “b*tch” to the word “bish” and for reasons I can’t explain, it makes it very hard not to sing along as he repeats the phrase “ya bish” multiple times throughout the song.
As the album progresses, Kendrick’s tone gets more introspective and mature on songs like “Swimming Pools (Drank)” where he critiques his drinking habits and their effects through conversations with his own conscious. He also gets reflective on the song “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst,” a twelve minute masterpiece that deals with subjects like life, death and one’s legacy. The way the production complements the lyrics goes beyond the surface on this one as there are fades, beat changes and a variety of other components to this track that will make you want to listen to it over and over.
There really aren’t any tracks worth skipping on this album, but a couple songs that you should definitely bump include the soulful “Poetic Justice” featuring Drake and “Real” featuring Anna Wise from Sunnymoon. Also if you happen to cop the deluxe version of the album be sure to listen to the song “Black Boy Fly,” a song that I personally feel should’ve been on the regular version.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of GKMC is it’s cohesiveness. The words “a short film by Kendrick Lamar” are pictured on the album cover and that is exactly what this body of work feels like. GKMC is like a biopic of Kendrick Lamar’s life as he takes us through his teenage years chasing girls on “Sherane,” spitting freestyles in his friends whip on “Backseat Freestyle” all the way up to the present day where he is able to reflect upon his past on “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst.” People started calling this album a classic almost immediately after they were done listening to it, which is pretty remarkable considering the fact that an album of this lyrical and intellectual magnitude deserves multiple listens before one can even fully appreciate its genius. Which brings us back to the original question. Is good kid m.A.A.d. city one of those rare albums that changes the way we perceive rap? Unless your name is Shyne, it’s definitely a possibility.