x CB » Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, Maad City

Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, Maad City


So some readers have requested that I keep an open forum here for discussion of significant hip hop events and releases and fistfights. It seems like Kendrick is that talking point at the moment. I reviewed the album for Spin and generally think it’s very good, even if the rush to immediately declare it a classic seems mostly motivated by a combination of general fanboyism and the fact that craft oriented and cohesive major label hip hop albums are so rare in this day and age. Your thoughts?

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39 Responses to “Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, Maad City”

  1. wes Says:

    ali is good at mixing

  2. Jerell Martin Says:

    #GKMC was better then illmatic if you really think about it. Real/True fans see how @kendricklamar has already builded a legacy. @OriginalShyne needs to go listen to “Bitch,Dont Kill My Vibe”

  3. chris Says:

    I’m no Kendrick fanboy – section 80 was very good, at times great, at times bad – but I honestly think this will go down as one of the very best rap albums of the last ten years, and therefore a classic. I know it’s way early to say that but this is way good.

  4. sisilafami Says:

    This album feels like a welcomed (but not necessary)j counterpoint to future’s equally good first album. Cohesion vs. Singles.

  5. fistfightguy Says:

    I’m just here for the fistfights

  6. Stacks Says:

    giving it an 8 is definitely a cop out on your part

  7. noz Says:

    numerical ratings on album reviews in general are cop outs but you little goons love to argue about them so we have to use them.

    that being said i can’t think of a rap album from the past five years that i would give a nine or a ten.

    maybe flockaveli.

  8. bding7 Says:

    Yea, I should have waited for this post, instead of putting this at the end of the last thread:

    Can I speak on it? On the one hand, I agree with a lot of your review. Kendrick clearly thought long and hard about each song and the overall message he wanted to convey. The production’s got a consistent sound, and yea, he’s just damn good at rapping. At the same time, I have a few problems:

    1) This album is way too long. If you cut the last two songs and the one w/ Drake, it’s a really depressing album, sure, but it’s a much more concise statement.

    2) The skits do too much explaining, and are quite humorless. But if he ended w/ the ‘Thirst’ skit, it feels quite powerful.

    3) I would have liked more weird flows, whether or not it distracted from the message.

    I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the second verse of “Sing About Me.” The ironic ending of “I’ll never fade away” loses its power after the abrupt ending of the first.

  9. noz Says:

    i also think “poetic justice” is the obvious dud and the in the larger scope of the album reveals drake’s limitations as a storyteller. part of me secretly/unrealistically hopes that it represents a passing of the baton under which kendrick will completely supplant him as the sensitive radio rapper du jour.

    and on the flip side “money trees” is incredible and people need to stop ignoring jay rock. dude is a monster when he needs to be.

  10. Syl Says:

    Your key line: Easier to admire than it is to enjoy.

    There is no rap LP of recent times as perfectly realized as Flockaveli.

  11. andrew m. Says:

    you wouldn’t even give 6 kiss higher than an 8???

    for my part I loved Kendrick’s album but also have trouble seeing any casual circumstances where I might throw a lot of the songs on. as a complete project it’s amazing, just a little bit of a chore at times. pluto is still my album of the year.

  12. Elijah Says:

    Man, I can think of too many records I would’ve gladly given 10s when they came out and haven’t listened to in years. 8 seems like a really high mark for most anything to me, but I guess that’s why numbers are a strange way to judge art.

    This record needs another listen before I have a real opinion, but any chance on liberating all those weirdly placed bonus tracks?

  13. Jay Campbell Says:

    To my surprise, I agree that Compton suddenly makes a lot more sense in the context of the record, which in and of itself really speaks to how well the album works as a total. As a result, I don’t mind the length. I think the length, the skits, everything are pretty important to the whole, even if it is a lot to get through. I do agree that the Drake track takes you out of it, and could go, but I’d be just as happy to see the longer Cartoons & Cereal back on the record (It was nice to hear the C&C Gunplay sample in Money Trees at least.)
    As far as instant classic? It’s a really great rap record made at a time that won’t have a lot of great rap record’s to remember, but as you said that speaks as much on the industry climate as on the record itself. I feel like the main reason people are looking to it to “save rap” is because they want to save the specific full crossover rap album model. Nothing wrong with that per-say, I would love more new records I can enjoy end to end, but at the same time, it speaks to a kind of old fashioned / old guard mentality that can really get on my nerves.

  14. Q Says:

    where is the Nicki Minaj feature though? That would have made it a 10 for sure.

  15. Ok but Says:

    I agree with the score and most of the review… but i don’t think that kendrick lamar is actually that good of a rapper(in the technical sense, in know he is far above average)… i feel like he’ll is more likely to show in somebody’s favorite album’s list rather than favorite rapper and jay rocks verse is a testimony to that and if schoolboy would’ve gotten a verse!!

  16. corpsey Says:

    I think it’s a brilliant album, though not without flaws. As others have mentioned ‘Poetic Justice’ is enjoyable enough but doesn’t really seem to fit into the concept of the album. I’m sort of intrigued to know whether or not Kendrick is parodying teenage love-poetry with that ‘flower blooms in the dark’ line cos otherwise it sounds sort of rote conscious rapper-y.

    I don’t particularly rate the beat Pharell did for ‘good kid’ although the rapping is excellent. And ‘Real’ taken out of context I think has a bit of weak beat.

    The highlight for me is ‘Sing About Me’ – so original and touching, and (it seems to me) a rare instance of a rapper actually talking about people other than himself (though of course its because those people relate to him that he’s talking about them). Nas ”Second Childhood” is another good example of this, and I’m not surprised he named ‘Stillmatic’ in that complex list and cited its storytelling.

    It reminds me of last year’s best album (arguably) ”XXX” – honest, ambitious, clever, musically a lot of variety to the production and also that sense of cohesiveness, in that listening to a lot of the tracks out of context takes away their power, or robs you of some perspective on them.

    Thought your review was great. David Drake’s on Complex was brilliant also.

  17. OW Says:

    Noz: Just to throw this out there but me and Hua have been rapping about the “critical consensus” around this album and based on what you were saying about that same phenom, I was thinking…

    For “your” generation of self-identified rap critics, this may symbolize what, for “my” generation of critics was the one album we really wanted to own, critically: “Stankonia.”

    That has nothing to do with the relative quality of each album – I’m not trying to compare Kendrick with Outkast, let alone album for album. But it does seem like it’s the kind of album that’s just “big idea” enough for hip-hop critics to rally behind as a ‘big idea” effort but not something that general music writers are going to jump on (unlike, say, “Watch the Throne” or Kanye’s last solo album).

  18. wills Says:

    First impression was to be reminded of Doseone.

    If you’re going to forego all the visceral pleasures of rap and stake everything on your poetic vision, it had better be a compelling vision. Kendrick has gotten rid of the most embarrassing stuff that dragged down Section 80, but there’s still too much emo, too many trite images, too much just overtly stating his themes instead of letting them emerge naturally through narrative and description. It works in patches, but… I don’t know, maybe I’m just not convinced of the need for ANY prog-rap concept albums.

  19. Austin T Says:

    Kendrick listens to Kanye a lot

    I also fear he may collapse under the weight of this album. That’s the darker side to hip hop’s OMG CLASSIC XXL DEBUT ALBUM trope

  20. like sound Says:

    I am not so into the KL album, it’s over-produced and over-burdened with concepts, skits, rap-prog moments, etc. Don’t get me wrong I like concept-oriented raps I’m not so into the execution here.

    I am srsly bummed that Armstrong got snatched up by the Feds. I was really enjoying his work. He did what, 6 yrs? Looks like he’ll be going back in for a long time..

  21. Toyota Yaris Says:

    I don’t think that anyone can declare an album a classic after 2 days. It is just what it is, a very very very very good album by a very very very very very good MC. Whether the album will be a classic or not is something you might tell in 6 years or something. But it has everything a classic album usually has and comes with. The beauty of the album is the cohesiveness and the fact that everything put together makes sense and the big picture of it, the narrative. Looking at imperfections in the album is kind of like arguing that Magic Johnson had no jumpshot..like who gives a fuck?..sometimes, just watch greatness unfold and enjoy it.

  22. Fosterakahunter Says:

    @ Jerell Martin “#GKMC was better then illmatic”
    You poor misguided simpleton, you are drinking that crazy water. Shame on you. Just out of curiosity, what is your age/when did you first know that you dug rap/Hip-Hop?
    My opinion(s); Kendrick’s LP is ok, it’s a bit boring as far as production, I’m not a huge fan of his voice, he can obviously write & rhyme, he will get better with age/time, the bar is set very low at this point, and I believe that’s why this project is getting the fanfare that it is. ‘Nuff said.

  23. CrowleyHead Says:

    I like this album a lot.

    I’m also waiting for the album where Kendrick suffers some sort of weird sort of ‘collapse’ in his rise to success. As malicious as that sounds, I imagine he has a total “Trauma” in his future discography that’d be ridiculously good.

  24. jderrida Says:

    Really good album. Ask me five years from now if its classic. To early now.

    Pretty safe bet five years from Noz will be blogging on the Lamar clones and the influence of GKMC tho.

    A much needed breathe of fresh air.

  25. Christian Says:

    I’ve been a Kendrick fan for ayears now. I grew up here in Compton CA on Rosecrans for 19 years. So I connect with this album very deeply. That being said I loved your review I can’t argue on the 8. you even said he’s probably the best rapper of his generation. people just need to understand this wasn’t about making what sounds best to the ears, it’s about the story of good kid growing up in hub city. And who knows if it’s a classic…we have to let time decide.

  26. JEDI Says:

    “It’s a completely exhausting listen, one that might prove easier to admire than enjoy.”

    That’s how I felt about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, though not GKMC as much. (There are a bunch of songs here that I can vibe to out of the context of the album, even the more demanding ones like “Sing About Me.”) Either way, I honestly don’t see that as a problem or reason to demerit an album. I can’t listen to MBDTF at all unless it’s in one sitting, and as such, I’ve only listened to it maybe 5x, but the whole package makes it an amazing album to me, even given that. Some albums are full of hits and fit into dozens of playlists, others aim for a more narrative experience, both of which are fine.

    GKMC might’ve been heavy-handed at times (“Dying of Thirst,” imo), but I think Kendrick made a compelling main character and never fumbled carrying that character through the album. (And it’s a mindset/theme that at least *I* haven’t heard presented this way before.) The production could’ve been a little more fun at times, but it’s always well executed, and Kendrick is an *excellent* writer and rapper; he has an Andre3K, early-Nas control of his flow and rhyme scheme. (His wordplay isn’t as crazy, but yeah). So basically, I think he did everything he needed to do on this album. A first-tier album, imo.

  27. JEDI Says:

    And about Poetic Justice… “Backstreet Freestyle” is “the dud” of the album to me. Agreed, Poetic Justice was definitely out of place and the only song that didn’t fit in the concept, BUT… I think it’s hot, so I’d keep it, hah. The beat is too smooth, and I think both Kendrick & Drake came with verses that fit perfectly. (And 95% of rappers have deficiencies at storytelling compared to Kendrick, so I don’t think the song highlights anything lacking that’s unique to Drake…. though Drake does have plenty of shortcomings, of course.)

  28. JYC Says:

    Great album, does lag when the execution of some songs fails to match its conception (eg Real). That was the same problem with Section.80, and it happens way less often on this album, so thats a huge plus in my eyes.

    and although i am sad to not see Cartoon & Cereal on the album, i dont think its to the album’s detriment. that records works as a standalone release; songs playing before or after it wouldve lessened the song’s meteoric impact for me.

  29. Austin T Says:

    Re: Backseat Freestyle, i’m surprised no one has likened his lapse into camp at the end to some of Eminem’s material post ’04. Needlessly agressive and that ‘biatttttch’ is cringeworthy

  30. corpsey Says:

    Yeah but isn’t that track intended to take the piss out of a younger Kendrick trying to be all hard despite his pre-dropped-balls squawk of a voice?

    I did think of Eminem at several points, though. One thing that links them is that feeling that they’re so technically capable that they get a bit bored with just being good sometimes and start fucking around with their voices/words etc.

  31. 3rdRail Says:

    @ Noz, I totally agree with you on “Money Trees”. Since we are making Illmatic comparisons; Jay Rocks verse on “Money Trees” almost feels like the scene stealing show that AZ put on for “Life’s a Bitch”. IMO that should be the next single.

    Also, I’m glad to see Kendrick took a page from one of his best songs “Little Johnny” on “Sing About Me”. It really is a jarring experience the first time you hear those gunshots.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNdixs6ok54

  32. brad Says:

    Yeah, the Jay Rock verse on ‘Money Trees’ is a highlight of the album for me. Also, out of all the albums released by TDE so far, Follow Me Home is easily the most underrated (not that the others are overrated).

    Don’t agree that ‘Backseat Freestyle’ is a dud. I’m not sure why, but Kendrick Lamar’s vocal shenanigans and eccentricities are more tolerable for me than Eminem’s. I can’t really justify it, it’s probably just subjective.

    It’s off the subject of ‘classic-or-not-classic’ but I recently had the chance to see all four of these guys perform live and it’s so rare to see such skillful rappers actually put on a great show. And I don’t just think it’s because my expectations, and the bar, have been lowered so much.

  33. JC Says:

    I think Noz nailed it. There is a tremendous amount of art and skill, but that doesn’t mean that all the pieces/parts come together as well as they could. There are definitely some unintentional cringe-worthy moments on the album, balanced out by moments of “oh shit.” I loved that single “Cartoon & Cereal” with Gunplay, for instance—that seemed like a fully-realized vision. As long as KL keeps the forward progression seen here from Section.80 (which was nice but I didn’t love as a whole), he could be on to something. The above posters make a really good point that his “art” is sometimes a little too on-display at times, like he’s trying too hard.

  34. Shapey Fiend Says:

    I find the album pretty boring, but I can see how someone else would enjoy it so I’m not mad or anything. The opening track just sounds like some Andre 3000 storytelling without the flair and humour. I’d say the same about a lot of the other tracks. Stuff like Swimming Pools is definitely amazing but the rest could do with some heavy editing. It’s the same reason I couldn’t really fuck with the last Kanye album and preferred the leak with the shorter tracks.

  35. bk Says:

    I like that Black Hippy make non-nerd rap for rap nerds. The concern for constructing albums is evident in the attention to cohesive sound and thematic links. Then there’s the part about giving a shit about rapping and not solely relying on an interesting back story and charisma. GKMC is great, even though it could be better (e.g. replace Poetic Justice with Cartoon and Cereal) and I just want to see more labels willing to back projects like this.

    And I couldn’t even get down with Section 80 all that much but I was really rooting for Kendrick on this album because the potential was so high.

    And I was really pleased that Jay Rock killed his verse on “Money Trees” because he’s the underdog.

    And Noz you nailed the Roots album comparison. I’d even compare the tone of GKMC to undun, which I actually liked even though at times it’s a pill.

    C.I.S.O.R.A. (Citizens In Support Of Rap Albums) endorsements for the past 3 years:

    2010 Flockaveli
    2011 XXX
    2012 Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City

  36. K.j Says:

    Hi, not only is Lamar’s record NOT A CLASSIC, it is pretty boring and lacks any originality. It is OK. This is mostly hype and expensive PR blowing it up. I do not see anything special about this rapper or his record. 3/10.
    The only classic in the hip hop rap world this year = TNGHT EP.
    Unrelated, but an example of originality and freshness this year = Moritat’s ‘CLILL BLANZIN’.
    Peace.

  37. Chris Says:

    I agree there’s a cloud of marketing genius behind Lamar’s debut (and I don’t think it’s a classic either) but it’s a fine piece of work, shows a lot of talent. The two singles were okay, some of his hooks were forgettable but it’s an above average piece.

  38. RussyRuss Says:

    youtu.be/hlYj4TCNbSE via @YouTube

  39. Jasa Website Riau Says:

    This album is way too long. If you cut the last two songs and the one w/ Drake, it’s a really depressing album, sure, but it’s a much more concise statement

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