Charisma, substance, lyrics, uniqueness and work ethic are written on a poster board in Dr. Dre’s studio. These are things he is looking for in an artist in order to work with them and it is something he has obviously seen in artists like Eminem and 50 Cent when he signed them to his Aftermath imprint. Kendrick Lamar has shown he can live up to all of these expectations, notably with the release of Section.80 last summer. The independent album was well received by critics and it was only a matter of time before he would be signed to a major label. Dr. Dre stepped up to the plate and scooped up Kendrick along with the rest of his TDE crew and rewarded them with the major label deal they have worked for the past few years. Seven months later, Kendrick’s debut album is finally here.
Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.A.d city is a concept album of which the main focus is Kendrick’s relationship with a girl named Sherane. The interludes after every song keep us updated on when he decides to go visit her at her house and ends up getting beat up by the rival gang in her neighborhood. His friends bring him along and retaliate with a drive by, but one of them is lost in the process. This story is spread and told throughout the entire album and really helps the flow of the album with every song being connected to the story.
It is pretty hard to choose some favorite tracks off of the album due to the whole album being really good, but if I had to choose some of my favorites it would definitely be the tracks “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “The Art of Peer Pressure.” The storytelling on “The Art of Peer Pressure” is pretty awesome and is definitely inspired by Outkast’s “Da Art of Storytellin.” Kendrick keeps listeners wondering what is going to happen next in his night out with his friends when they decide to rob a house they have been scoping out for days. The 12 minute track “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” is actually two songs in one. The first song, “Sing About Me,” comes immediately after the interlude in which Kendrick’s friend is killed. The second song, “I’m Dying of Thirst,” comes after a mid-song interlude in which Kendrick and his friends are trying to figure what to do after the death of their friend. It would’ve made more sense to have them as separate tracks, but it’s up to Kendrick and his production team to clear up why it is that these two were listed as one.
The production on the album is one of the best things about this album. Kendrick chose to work with Section.80 producers Sounwave and THC, but the Compton native also chose to work with new producers like Scoop DeVille and T-Minus. Kendrick also worked with some legends like Pharrell and Just Blaze on this project. The standout instrumental for me has to be the Hit-Boy-produced “Backseat Freestyle.” Kendrick’s flow and delivery also helps take the record to the next level. There aren’t many features on the album, but those that can be found here were definitely good additions to the album. The track “Money Trees” features a dope verse from Jay Rock, the only member of Black Hippy featured on the album, while Drake returns the favor for Kendrick being on his album by jumping on the track “Poetic Justice.” Kendrick brought along a fellow Compton native and member of Compton’s Most Wanted, MC Eiht for the very energetic “m.A.A.d city.”
The final track on the album, “Compton,” features Dr. Dre and is perfect example of why Dre signed Kendrick. This is the first record that the two recorded together, so it made Dr. Dre’s decision to sign Kendrick Lamar that much easier.
Be sure to support Kendrick Lamar and pick up the album on iTunes here. The deluxe album has 5 bonus songs on it including “The Recipe” and the original version of “Swimming Pools.”
Key Tracks: Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe, BackSeat Freestyle, The Art of Peer Pressure, Money Trees, m.A.A.d city, Sing About Me/I’m Dying of Thirst