If you look back over the past three decades, there are numerous rap albums that have been embraced by the hip-hop community and given classic status for their musical quality, subject matter, and overall impact on the genre and the culture. However, there’s also a shortlist of rap albums that stand in a class of their own and have marked a changing of the guard, sonically, lyrically, topically, or in terms of shifting the culture. Of these albums, many happen to be debuts and were the first time the world at large have gotten an opportunity to see what these artist had to offer. Among them include Rakim (Paid In Full), KRS-One (Criminal Minded), Dr. Dre (Chronic) Nas (Illmatic), The Notorious B.I.G. (Ready To Die), JAY-Z (Reasonable Doubt), 50 Cent (Get Rich Or Die Tryin’), and Kanye West (College Dropout), all soloists who have helped define and dictate the direction of hip-hop as we know it.
One of the more recent additions to that list is Kendrick Lamar, rap’s current preeminent lyricist and resident poet laureate. Released on October 22, 2012, good kid, m.A.A.d city may have been Kendrick’s introduction to casual rap fans and the mainstream music world at large, but it was also the culmination of a nearly three-year period of him building himself from a relative unknown into the most coveted prospect in rap. After scrapping his original rap name, K-Dot, and adopting his government name as his rap moniker, Kendrick Lamar unleashed his self-tiled EP on the eve of 2010, which would receive critical acclaim but fly under the radar. His profile among tastemakers would increase with the release of 2010’s Overly.Dedicated, but it wasn’t until Section 80 arrived in 2011 that his status as the savior of the West Coast would become apparent. Earning a co-sign from Dr. Dre, who inked him to a contract with Aftermath Records through Top Dawg Entertainment, Kendrick had the weight of the world on his shoulders heading into the release of good kid, m.A.A.d city.
When all was said and done, Kendrick would not only live up to the hype, but exceed expectations, delivering an album that was hailed as an instant classic and reinvigorated rap fans hungry for a messiah with all of the tools to become one of the greatest of all-time. From carefree rhyme spills (“Backseat Freestyle,” “Money Trees”) to reflective moments of introspect (“Good Kid, Bi**h, Don’t Kill My Vibe”) and vivid accounts of his youth “(Art of Peer Pressure,” “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”), good kid, m.A.A.d city gives a look inside the sprawling psyche of Kendrick Lamar and gives listeners a slice of his life and times.
In celebration of its five year anniversary, VIBE dissected Kendrick Lamar’s iconic debut and highlighted 20 of the most captivating and impactful lyrics that good kid, m.A.A.d city has to offer.
“Sherane AKA Master Splinter’s Daughter”
“So now I’m down Rosecrans in a Caravan/Passin’ Alameda, my gas meter in need of a pump, I got enough to get me through the traffic jam/At least I hope ’cause my pockets broke as a promise, man/I’m thinkin’ about that sex/Thinkin’ about her thighs or maybe kissin’ on her neck, or maybe what position’s next/Sent a picture of her titties blowin’ up my texts/I looked at ’em and almost ran my front bumper into Corvette”
“All my life I want money and power/Respect my mind or die from lead shower/I pray my d**k get big as the Eiffel Tower/So I can f**k the world for seventy-two hours/Goddamn I feel amazin’, damn I’m in the Matrix/My mind is livin’ on cloud nine and this 9 is never on vacation/Startup that Maserati and – vroom-vroom! – I’m racin’/Poppin’ pills in the lobby and I pray they don’t find her naked”
“The Art of Peer Pressure”
“Bumpin’ Jeezy first album, lookin’ distracted/Speakin’ language only we know, you think it’s an accent/The windows roll down, all I see is a hand pass it/Hotboxin’ like George Foreman grillin’ the masses of the workin’ world/We pulled up on a bunch of workin’ girls and asked them what they workin’ with/Look at me, I got the blunt in my mouth/Usually I’m drug-free, but sh*t, I’m with the homies”
“The sun is goin’ down as we take whatever we want/I hit the back window in search of any Nintendo, DVD’s, plasma-screen TV’s in the trunk/We made a right, then made a left, then made a right/Then made a left, we was just circlin’ life/My mama called: “Hello? What you doin’?” — “Kickin’ it.”/I shoulda told her I’m probably ‘bout to catch my first offense with the homies”
“It go Halle Berry or hallelujah/Pick your poison, tell me what you doin’/Everybody gon’ respect the shooter/But the one in front of the gun lives forever/And I been hustlin’ all day, this-a-way, that-a-way/Through canals and alleyways, just to say/Money trees is the perfect place for shade and that’s just how I feel”
“Imagine Rock up in them projects, where them ni**as pick your pockets/Santa Claus don’t miss them stockings, liquors spillin’, pistols poppin’/Bakin’ soda YOLA whippin’, ain’t no turkey on Thanksgivin’/My homeboy just dome’d a ni**a, I just hope the Lord forgive him” – Jay Rock
“I recognize your fragrance/Hold up, you ain’t never gotta say sh*t/Uh, and I know your taste is/A little bit, hmm, high maintenance/Uh, everybody else basic, you live life on an everyday basis/With poetic justice, poetic justice/If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room/Would you trust it?”
“Young East African girl, you too busy fuckin’ with your other man/I was tryna put you on game, put you on a plane, take you and your momma to the motherland/I could do it, maybe one day, when you figure out you’re gonna need someone/When you figure out it’s alright here in the city and you don’t run from where we come from” –Drake
“As the record spin I should pray/For the record, I recognize that I’m easily prey/I got ate alive yesterday/I got animosity buildin’, it’s prob’ly big as a buildin’, me jumpin’ off of the roof is me just playin’ it safe/But what am I ‘posed to do when the topic is red or blue/And you understand that I ain’t, but know I’m accustomed too”
“In all honesty I got time to be copacetic until/You had finally made decision to hold me against my will/It was like a head-on collision that folded me standing still/I can never pick out the difference and grade a cop on the bill/Every time you clock in the morning, I feel you just want to kill/All my innocence while ignorin’ my purpose to persevere/As a better person; I know you heard this and probably in fear”
“Uh, Warriors and Conans, Hope euphoria can slow dance/With society, the driver seat the first one to get killed/Seen a light-skinned ni**a with his brains blown out/At the same burger stand where *beep* hang out/Now this is not a tape recorder sayin’ that he did it/But ever since that day, I was lookin’ at him different”
“Bodies on top of bodies, IV’s on top of IV’s/Obviously the coroner between the sheets like the Isleys/When you hop on that trolley, make sure your colors correct/Make sure you’re corporate or they’ll be callin’ your mother collect/They say the governor collect all of our taxes, except/When we in traffic and tragic happens, that sh*t ain’t no threat/You movin’ backwards if you suggest that you sleep with a TEC/Go buy a chopper and have a doctor on speed dial, I guess”
“My pops said I needed a job, I thought I believed him/Security guard for a month and ended up leavin’/In fact, I got fired, ’cause I was inspired by all of my friends/To stage a robbery the third Saturday I clocked in/Projects tore up, gang signs get thrown up/Cocaine laced in marijuana/And they wonder why I rarely smoke now/Imagine if your first blunt had you foamin’ at the mouth”
“Swimming Pools (Drank)”
“Ni**a, why you babysittin’ only two or three shots?/I’ma show you how to turn it up a notch/First you get a swimming pool full of liquor, then you dive in it/Pool full of liquor, then you dive in it/I wave a few bottles, then I watch ’em all flock/All the girls wanna play Baywatch/I got a swimming pool full of liquor and they dive in it/Pool full of liquor, I’ma dive in it”
“Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”
“I’m fortunate you believe in a dream/This orphanage we call a ghetto is quite a routine/And last night was just another distraction/Or a reaction of what we consider madness, I know exactly what happened/You ran outside when you heard my brother cry for help/Held him like a newborn baby and made him feel/Like everything was alright, and a fight he tried to put up/But the type of bullet that stuck had went against his will”
“This is the life of another girl damaged by the system/These foster homes, I run away and never do miss ’em/See, my hormones just run away and if I can get ’em/Back to where they used to be, then I’ll probably be in the denim/Of a family gene that show women how to be woman/Or better yet, a leader, you need her to learn somethin’/Then you probably need to beat her, that’s how I was taught/Three niggas in one room, first time I was tossed”
“I suffer a lot/And every day that glass mirror get tougher to watch, I tie my stomach in knots/And I’m not sure why I’m infatuated with death/My imagination is surely an aggravation of threats that can come about/’Cause the tongue is mighty powerful and I can name a list of your favorites that probably vouch/Maybe ’cause I’m a dreamer and sleep is the cousin of death/Really stuck in the schema of wondering when I’ma rest”
“I count lives, all on these songs/Look at the weak and cry, pray one day you’ll be strong/Fighting for your rights, even when you’re wrong/And hope that at least one of you sing about me when I’m gone/Am I worth it?/Did I put enough work in?”
“But what love got to do with it when I don’t love myself/To the point I should hate everything I do love?/Should I hate living my life inside the club?/Should I hate her for watching me for that reason?/Should I hate him for telling me that I’m seizin’?/Should I hate them for telling me “ball out”?/Should I hate street credibility I’m talkin’ about/Hating all money, power, respect in my will/Or hating the fact none of that sh*t make me real?”
“Won’t you spend a weekend on Rosecrans ni**a/Khaki creasing, crime increasing on Rosecrans ni**a/Kendrick Conan ni**a, where you sword at, hand on the cross and swore that/I do it big as Rasputia for them shooters/Kama Sutra scream f**k your position and make you hold that”