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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Best of 2012 Round-Up: good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar

Short film? I wanted music, dammit!

Kendrick Lamar was told in a dream by the ghost of Tupac to make music that would uplift the youth of Compton, and dissuade them from entering the Thug Life. I’ve ran into people that have claimed similar things. Those people are usually on heavy medication, should be on heavy medication, or did a lot of “medication” in their younger days. I would think Lamar was insane, if he wasn’t the greatest rapper of all time. That kind of talk is usually reserved for dead legends like Biggie and Tupac, or aged rappers like Jay-z and Nas. At 25 with only a mixtape and an album out, it seems like a tad early to make this claim, but I have no problem making it.

Kendrick agrees with this claim. With all the hype and praise surrounding GKMC, he’s stayed humble. He never believes that he’s as great as he’s told he is. He’s always working on his craft, improving whatever minor deficiencies in his skills he may have. And it shows. Section.80 was a fantastic album, and I thought that Lamar couldn’t get any better. Then I heard good kid, m.A.A.d. city, and couldn’t believe how much better he’s gotten.
The Hiii-power movement is created by Kendrick. It's about
rising above the lies society feeds to us. Each finger
means a different thing: Heart, Honor, and Respect.

This album is perfectly crafted; just look at this line from “Backseat Freestyle” – “Her body got that ass that a ruler couldn’t measure/and it makes me cum fast, but I never get embarrassed”. At first, you may scoff at this line; you might think it’s my favorite because I’m very familiar with premature ejaculation. It’s a line you’d hear Froggy Fresh/Kripsy Kreme or Turquoise Jeep make if they delved into anything too overt. But, given the story arc of this album, and the theme of this track, it is one of the most perfect lines in hip-hop. This is early on in the album; we know Kendrick is in high school, sometime around his sophomore year. He’s a young kid, in a car with his friends, hanging out, having fun. It’s innocent fun; yeah, it’s some gangsta shit, but he doesn’t really mean any of it. I mean, he says that he wants his dick to get as big as the Eiffel tower so he can fuck the world for 72 hours. Then, in the middle of this song about killing, drug dealing, fast cars, and hot girls, he throws in a line about how he finishes quickly. It’s a line that shouldn’t be there, but it is. Why? He’s an innocent kid, young and inexperienced. He puts up this wall of what he thinks his friends want to see, and in a moment, he accidentally tears it down, only to try to recover immediately after by claiming it doesn’t embarrass him. It’s a brilliant line that adds so much to the album.

And let’s not forget about the skits. Obviously, they’re vital to carrying the story through the album in a coherent fashion. And while some are funny (his parents’ calls at the end of “Sherane aka Master Splinter’s Daughter” and “MoneyTrees”), there are some that are subtly amazing. For instance, at the end of “The Art of Peer Pressure”, which, in context of the album is a top track, there’s an exchange between 2 of Kendrick’s friends. One asks “What’s that Jeezy song say?”, and someone from the group says “Last time I checked, I was the man of these streets”, with the group piping up for the second half of the sentence. The original speaker says “Yeah yeah, that shit right there. I’m trying to be the nigga in the streets”, with the sensible friend saying “Man, you don’t even know how the shit goes”. Beyond historical racial connotations about the term “nigger” and/or “nigga”, there’s also positive and negative connotations there. When calling someone “my nigga”, there’s a friendly sense to the term. However, you can still call someone a “nigga” and have it mean someone who’s ignorant or stupid, and acts way too hood. It’s a powerful conversation, giving subtle character and thematic elements that you’d only see in a winner of the Palme d’Or, not an album, and especially not a popular rap album.

Bow! Bow before King Kendrick Lamar!
And if my deconstruction doesn’t prove that this is a expertly crafted album, then look at the fact that I’m actually deconstructing the themes and lines of this album. You can pull out a variety of amazing lines and tracks from GKMC and analyze them to death. You can critique the song order, and whether or not “Black Boy Fly” should replace “BitchDon’t Kill My Vibe”, or whether “Compton” should have been reserved for the bonus tracks instead of the note you end the album on. You can’t, or at least shouldn’t, do this stuff when looking at 2 Chainz, or The Game, or Lil Wayne.

The album culminates in the opus, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”. It’s a touching, moving, emotional 12 minutes of pain and honesty. Kendrick takes on the roles of 3 people – a friend and older brother of a vital character in the story, the older sister of the prostitute from “Keisha’s Song” off of Section.80, and finally, himself, talking about his own self-worth, fascination with death, and the constant threat on his life. If there was any song that could truly capture what good rap is about, this it. Lyrically, vocally, musically, it is innovative, original, and should be shown to those who hate rap as the counter to Jeezy and Chef Keef.

This is the best album you will hear all year. Normally I don’t truly mean that, but it did make it as my #1 album of last year, and some other people agree with me. It might be the best rap album you’ll hear in a few years, and for sure the best one you’ve heard since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Hell, you’ll hear it being mentioned as one of the best of all time. Until, of course, Kendrick drops his next album. Until then, support the greatest rapper around, and support the greatest music blog writers around.

1 comment:

  1. I didnt choose to make Thug Life a proper noun, Proper Noun Thug Life chose me