One year later and it’s still my favorite album. Kendrick absolutely changed the way people approach rap and set a new standard. Here are a few reasons why:
1. It tells a compelling story
Good Kid m.A.A.d. City is what’s known as a concept album. Each song has a purpose and contributes to the story of the album as a whole. Kendrick provides insight into his childhood, growing up as a “good kid” amongst the Compton culture of drugs and gang violence. Kendrick claims the acronym “m.a.a.d.” appropriately stands for “My Angry Adolescence Divided,” as well as “My Angels on Angel Dust.” Between almost every song is a short skit, be it of Kendrick’s mother leaving him a voicemail, or he and his friends causing trouble. Rather than just a compiled collection of singles like most artists have (which I’d consider being closer to a mixtape), Good Kid m.A.A.d. City is an artistically and creatively crafted LP.
2. Embedded Singles
Even though it is a concept album by nature, Kendrick has managed to fit key singles, each with the potential for chart-topping status, into the story. The first, “Swimming Pools (Drank)” conveys Kendrick’s battle with peer pressure and his constant struggle with alcoholism, which has plagued his family (his grandfather’s death). In “m.A.A.d. City” he talks about the violence and drugs that affected his life as a teenager. “Money Trees” fits into the story as Kendrick talks about looting and stealing with his friends as an extra source of cash. “Backseat Freestyle” is reminiscent of his early days, learning to rap by freestyling to hip-hop beats in the car with his friends. The list goes on and on.
3. Production Value
I can’t even begin to emphasize how well-done each and every track is. I suppose it’s hard to fail with big-name producers like Dr. Dre, Pharrell Williams, Just Blaze, and Hit-Boy. While other albums generally have certain songs I’m impressed with, Good Kid m.A.A.d. City doesn’t even have any single songs that I’m unimpressed with. The beats for the most part are very atmospheric, heavily rhythmic, and encompass a wide range of styles. They show varied musicality that can be rare in the hip-hop genre.
Kendrick’s performance and lyricism are unparalleled in the rap game right now. He uses witty metaphors, excellent wordplay, perfectly varied rhythms, and complex rhyme schemes. His message is almost always discernible. His lyrics show advanced thinking as he contemplates different ideas. All in all it is more than a pleasure to listen to what he has to say.
More than anything, Good Kid m.A.A.d. City is appealing because it reaches a broad spectrum of individuals. The album appeals to hip-hop enthusiasts and mainstream fans, while being introspective enough to draw the attention of those who enjoy the poetic side of things. It appeals to athiests and monotheists alike, as Kendrick wrestles with his belief in God while maintaining the image necessary of a high-profile rapper.
All in all, Kendrick Lamar has outdone himself and created one of the greatest albums of our time. If you haven’t listened to it all the way through, now’s the time. I can’t wait for his next release.