One Year Later: Can We Call Kendrick Lamar's 'good kid, m.A.A.d city' LP A Classic Yet?
October 23, 2013 - 12:45 pm
Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter
The storytelling of this opening track hasn’t staled at all thanks to K Dot’s vivid details and Menace II Society-like suspense. Even knowing the good kid’s violent fate, the memories of adolescent sexting and eerie foreshadowing make for an conceptual setup that one-ups Sherane herself. The hilarious spat between Kendrick's mom and pops is as ageless as Stacey Dash.
Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe
While the remix is the more memorable version for its acknowledgement of gkmc’s million-selling status and an insane closing verse that overpowers Hov’s, this original was the calm before the storm. Its vibe is alive and well.
The most manic moment on good kid, m.A.A.d. city is the sole track where Kendrick hears the beat—Hit-Boy’s 808s and hypnotizing percussion—and goes full Forrest Gump in the booth. Were his screams always this grating? Is this his best Meek Mill impression? Still dope, but prone to the occasional skip.
The Art Of Peer Pressure
A good story never gets old. But a great story always feels like the first time. This one falls somewhere in the middle. Who can’t relate to peer pressure as a teenager that doesn’t know any better? (Ditto for grown-ass adults.)
This one’s on my bucket (play)list to blast from an old school low rider. It’s a sometimes forgotten gem on which, quiet as kept, Jay Rock steals the show.
Well, this musical partnership was fun while it lasted. Drake colors Kendrick’s poetic courtship with his own lover-boy smooth talk. Scoop DeVille is a damn fool for this Janet flip. Grade-A dopeness. Also, Kendrick has the funniest parents in the history of ever.
Aside from the Roy Ayers nod, I’ve always loved the way Kendrick toys with language on this record. “I should ask a choir/what do you require/To sing a song that acquire/me to have faith.” The entendre of red and blue to represent the three biggest gangs in Compton—Bloods, Crips and, of course, the police—is also quite crafty.
Ever see Kendrick perform this live? Yeah—definitely no signs of aging here. The censored name in verse one adds an authentic touch. And the beat switch-up helps keep things exciting. Can we please get some more new music from MC Eiht?
Swimming Pools (Drank)
Most first singles don’t age well. This one is a bit worn, but it’s unconventional enough to maintain a non-perishable shelf life.
Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst
If you had to play a single song for someone unaware of Kendrick Lamar Duckworth’s existence, this would be it. I’ve always been a sucker for how these first two verses close out, the first silenced by gunfire, the second fading into the instrumental to indicate a prostitute’s declining health and ultimate demise. Impossible not to be moved by these lyrics. Not sure if even Nas could've taken this record up a notch.
Here’s a feel-good track to lift the mood of its predecessor and close out the short cinema Kendrick has presented to the world. Gotta love how, contrary to “The Art Of Peer Pressure,” K Dot deconstructs the fallacies of what society—his surroundings—considers “real.” A year isn’t even enough time to pawn all these jewels he's dropping.
This one’s not a bad record at all, but it’s the first time the overproduced Interscope sound rears its head (don’t even get me started on the Mary J. Blige-featured extra, “Now or Never’). Should’ve been a bonus track; doesn’t fit the musical feel carefully carpentered by the previous 11 records. It’s a bit more jarring a full 365 later.
So... is good kid, m.A.A.d city a classic, or nah?
Kendrick Lamar's second studio album isn't perfect. But you can nitpick anything if you put your contrarian mind to it. Like Nas' Illmatic, there's not a single bar wasted on this LP. Every element is a building block to something greater, from the skits to the instrumentation. It's a project you can deconstruct for hours, like studying the internal architecture of an onion's rings. The production helps animate a mini-movie that's personal to Kendrick, but also relatable to many seeds sprouting in Compton's chaotic streets. And for rap peers, a new bar of excellence.
One year later, gkmc sounds just as classic as the first time we've laid ears on it. Happy birthday, kid.