Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, m.A.A.d City

I stumbled across Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City by accident. It would come up every now and then when purchasing music from some online retailer. It was the result of one of those tepid “Others who bought this product also bought…” suggestions that come when the algorithms start working their magic.

All of this is stranger, considering the incredibly small amount of rap music that I purchased, which I swear, seems like it would have been Whodini’s Escape.

In any case, the album looked intriguing from a cover art perspective and I looked into the record a bit further. Let me cut to the chase and tell you that I acquired Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City shortly afterwards and it is a beast of a listen and one in which you should discover right now. Details on this follow, but there is an admission that I am by far the authority on what constitutes a good rap record these days, because I am so far removed from that genre, having abandoned it after the genre became such a chore to navigate.

Like rock and roll, there became an entire sub-culture universe that existed. It was a reality that I could no longer devote the energy to keep up with it. And since my passion lay with rock music, it was best that I break off from any pretense of knowledge or understanding of current rap music.

This is not to say that I don’t like the genre or enjoy a new rap record. I do, but I won’t work hard to discover it.

And let me tell you, life is pretty good when you allow others to tell you what is decent in rap releases. It enables you to cherry pick from those that closely resemble your primary likes and preferences. For me, that preference would consist of the location of where rap music began: this middle-age cracker from Iowa likes his rap music East Coast style.

Which is odd because Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is proudly West Coast, specifically Compton, and surprisingly narcotic. It is unique, infectious, and at times disturbing. It brings about a level of empathy, alternating between championing Lamar and chastising him for making some tragic decisions.

It blurs the line between fact and fiction well, incorporating his violent surroundings with well paced moments of bravado, dreams and outright lies. Trying to pinpoint Lamar to just one of Good Kid’s many personalities is a bit tricky, and ultimately the record’s most frustrating characteristic.

Too many times he peppers songs with ill-advised diversions, like the inner-voice portion of “Swimming Pools” where the entire codeine vibe is killed on what is likely the first drank anthem ever put to a hard drive.

In the end, you cannot deny that Lamar has put together an impressive array of narratives and the arrangements in which he and his studio visitors (read: big names) have weaved together one of the most unique and challenging records in any genre.

It all came together for me in a moment of impulse purchase intrigue, a result of some devious program designed to get me to dig a bit deeper into my wallet. And while I’m naturally suspicious of such tactics, it doesn’t mean that I’ve turned myself off to the suggestion.

And that’s all I’m trying to do with this review, because even with a cursory bit of investigation you’ll hear that there’s a good deal of comfort in Lamar’s van-tour of his dangerous and infectious streets.

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