In 1995, an impressionable 8-year-old watched with wide eyes as rap deities Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre filmed the music video for their classic “California Love.” The young boy watched in awe as Tupac and Dre abused the Thunderdome set wearing all black leather get-ups laced with chains of gold. There is a moment in everyone’s life when they experience an epiphany and realize their passion. In California, on that day in ’95, history was made. Not only was one of the greatest rap videos of all time captured on film, but a young Kendrick Lamar experienced one of those epiphanies: he was going to be a rapper.
Now, 17 years later, Kendrick Lamar is in the midst of living his childhood dream. Kendrick’s critically-acclaimed first studio album, Section .80, was released in 2011, and it foreshadowed fame. The rap god who inspired him on that fateful afternoon in ‘95, Dr. Dre, has become a believer in Kendrick’s talent and potential, signing Lamar to Aftermath Entertainment.
On Oct. 22, Lamar’s second studio album titled, good kid, m.A.A.d city, was released by Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records. The album serves as Kendrick’s major label debut after signing to Aftermath and Interscope, and it is sure to be deemed a classic.
Lyrically, good kid, m.A.A.d city chronicles Kendrick’s experiences in his hometown of Compton, Calif. and its harsh realities. The songs address issues such as economic marginalization, gang violence and exploited women, while also exploring their enduring effects on individuals and families in the community.
Kendrick’s lyrical depth is flawlessly complemented by a low-key, downbeat production with atmospheric beats. The listener should expect nothing less, considering Kendrick linked up with some of the best producers in the industry. The likes of Dr. Dre, Pharrell, Just Blaze, T-Minus and Hit-Boy, among other notables, blessed the album with instrumentals reminiscent of Outkast’s 1996 classic, ATLiens.
Kendrick exhibits a tempered delivery on the album. His verses are filled with dense narratives, an internal rhyme, double and triple time flow, and multiple voices for different characters. The overall effect is summed up on the album cover: “good kid, m.A.A.d city a short film by Kendrick Lamar”.
If hip-hop is dead, as it has seemed for the past several years, then Kendrick Lamar and his confidants are the second coming. good kid, m.A.A.d city is a testament to all non-believers; all hail Compton’s own, King Kendrick Lamar.