Every time Kendrick Lamar releases a project, it is better than the previous one. That’s simple to say, but very hard to do. Another year of maturation as a man and an artist is stamped all over his latest, good kid m.A.A.d city and has furthered his evolution. With a compelling narrative and 12 tracks of beat selection perfection, Lamar has not only outdone himself, he has outdone everyone else.
good kid m.A.A.d city is a concept album with a day in the life vibe that is neither trite nor contrived. In an evening of booze and debauchery, Lamar’s jaded protagonist, along with his friends, finds death, deliverance and everything in between. This album is a simmering powder keg of an LP that tips its hand from jump, but still draws you in with superb lyricism.
The major issue with Section.80 was the dead pan delivery Kendrick strung over the majority of the tracks. There was little punch or inflection and at times he tended to drone. This time around, Kendrick brings diversity and drama, from the growling slow drag of “Backseat Freestyle” to the high octane speed of “m.A.A.d. City.” The monotone steez returns on “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Real” with a slight sprinkle of 3 stacks, but in smaller doses it fits perfectly into the big picture.
Sitting under Lamar’s Compton tales is the best grouping of tracks, pound for pound, of any rap album this year. He toggles between up and coming (Like from Pac Div, DJ Dahi) and legendary (Dr. Dre, Just Blaze) producers to lay out a dense, lush soundbed that churns the emotion flawlessly.
“Backseat Freestyle” is a cacophony of Western school bells or possibly a kindergartner going ham on a triangle that provides the only chest thumping, ass shaking material on the album. The bass prowls below the vocal samples, claps and what sounds like the rattling keys at the bottom of my purse. “The Art of Peer Pressure” sports the most simple yet stirring track of the bunch. The intro pops like a needle on a dusty record with a jazzy piano, drum rolls and a high pitched synth line that fades into a section of grinding bass reminiscent of a homemade trunk speaker. The vibe again changes into some more atmospheric melancholy. It’s disjointed and sublime. The sample from Janet Jackson’s “Anytime, Anyplace” in “Poetic Justice” is dope. The shivering violin in “Money Trees” is doper. “M.A.A.D City” resurrects the rhythm of Cube’s “A Bird in the Hand” while extracting a lil flavor from Kanye’s verse on “We Major” in a perfect microcosm of both Death Certificate and Late Registration. This album is the perfect intersection of the former’s street knowledge and the latter’s production brilliance.
Features are few, but they all make their mark. Jay Rock dropped the verse of his career and Drake slides around the beat like it’s a mere suggestion; one he has no plans of taking. Dre brings more aggression to his bars than he has in years on Just Blaze’s “Compton” and MC Eiht made my day in “M.A.A.D. City,” niggaaaaaa.
The devil is always in the details and that’s probably the most amazing thing about good kid m.A.A.d city. The transition between the songs, the painstaking care in the mastering, the religious bent wisely devoid of preachiness; no thread was left hanging. Kendrick Lamar has displayed the maturity of a Hip-Hop elder statesman with a brave and sincere work that will undoubtedly take most of the vets to task on end of year lists. In “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” Lamar says “I’m trying to keep it alive and not compromise the feeling we love.” I’d say he succeeded in grand fashion. good kid m.A.A.d city is the best thing this reviewer has heard all year.
Out of 5
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