Review: Kendrick Lamar – ‘Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City’

K-Dot's full-length debut is a sensationally versatile collection that makes a case for new-formula musical longevity.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

One of the most anticipated albums of the year is upon us, and the results are a refreshing meeting of potential and realization from Compton's greatest hope. It's no small feat to coalesce a barrage of different producers for a cohesive, progressive sound, much less to meet it with a versatility of flow and lyrical design, but with minor exception Kendrick Lamar has stepped up to the hype and hit this one out of the park. 

Following 2011's powerhouse Section.80 a barrage of stellar sample spots and endorsements from the biggest players in the game, K-Dot's been in a position of sky-high expectation for months. And on Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, Lamar takes the momentum and folds it into one of the most dynamic full-length debuts Hip-Hop has seen in ages. His imaginative and sensationally versatile flow changes like the weather in tornado season, with a lyrical design that reflects on having tasted the street life and opted for the high road.

Whether recounting a breaking-and-entering with friends on the old-school beat of "The Art of Peer Pressure” or unfolding the sex-aggro misogyny of "Real," Lamar's mind is on overdrive, pulling fuel from guest spots such as Jay Rock's verse on "Money Trees" to leap into a flexibility of delivery that monochromatic heavyweights would do well to take notes from.

The current rap-wagon rush to include Drake on every release is ill-informed, and K-Dot's album suffers from the inclusion of the nasal-brat Mr. Cupcake on "Poetic Justice". The Janet sample pulls the track out of the fire, however, alongside an irresistible beat. In further complaint, Pharrell steps in it a bit with a weak dream-hum beat on "Good Kid," as Kendrick laments the trapdoors of life in a tumbling flow that crams the syllables into every breath. Redemption arrives quickly, however, on follow-up track "M.A.A.D. City," with a beat change-up that's pure gold amidst ultra-violent lyricism and a strong verse from guest MC Eiht.

Wonders will never cease as to why "The Recipe" didn't get a far bigger marketing push, with the pure-butter Dre-featured track sporting an utterly gorgeous beat/sample that's a perfect go-to for introducing the hesitant to Mr. Lamar. It's arguably a more artistically cohesive track design than the other Dre-spotlight jam, album-closer "Compton". While the latter drips with desire to cross the now-culture threshold of catchy gimmickry, "The Recipe" possesses a far more natural beauty in design and execution, a casual excellence that makes for one of the album's best tracks.

With Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City, the little Compton engine that could gets fully tricked out and unveils a beast of an engine that's sure to cut a wide path through Hip-Hop in the coming years. By pulling both the mainstream and the deep-head rap fans into the fold, Kendrick has made a case for a new-formula longevity that's hard to argue against.