Kendrick Lamar doesn’t go too hard in comparison to rival chart-climbers like Danny Brown and 2 Chainz. His beats mellow between the bars of Drake (super chill) and spits of Lil Wayne (wildly vulgar), maintaining a mellow but positive pace as he spits his rhymes. Lamar finds a nice area of middle ground where the rapper’s words aren’t too harsh or objectifying like Wayne’s or enough to put you to sleep like Drake’s. The “Swimming Pools (Drank)” singer has a ways to go before reaching legendary status, but confirms his place as an artistic knockout in the hip-hop boxing ring.
Following the highly successful Section.80, we can gather that a whole bunch of producers couldn’t wait to get into the studio with Lamar, and now Good Kid, M.A.A.D City stands as the definitive follow-up as a result of an increased budget, more personnel and a big-name promotional label (Interscope). Dr. Dre and friends did good this time, meticulously choosing the right tempos and proper production for a complete selection of never-a-dull-moment audio speakers with Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.
Lamar swoons with his good looks and suave rapping voice that’s free of aggression even at the roughest points, but neither perk takes the rapper’s most coveted quality: He’s an intellectual. The rapper uses words like facetious and empathy, adjectives that are dusty vocabulary for contemporary hip-hop musicians. Granted, he still uses words like ‘homies’ and ‘pussy,’ but at least this guy isn’t a gangster.
Lamar achieves conceptual expression in an appearance by his childhood imaginary friend, which is weird, but the significance isn’t hard to follow. The whole scene is about being surrounded by a toxic environment and staying true to yourself. In fact, most metaphors are easy to see past and decode, making the slow-riding hip-hop jams somewhat of a breeze to listen through.
If that doesn’t do it for you, at least the rapper doesn’t tank with that awkward combination of singing and rapping we’ve been hearing in the past year. Lamar’s voice is projected at harming nobody. A nice female vocal in the background helps, too. Look to “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” for an example of this coolness. Wait up for Mary J. Blige, a comfortably warm tone, later on.
Kendrick can spit a good rhyme, too, and plays no games from the beginning in the Dr. Dre featurette “The Recipe.” In the second verse, he says “I feel you just want to kill/All my innocence while ignoring my purpose/To persevere as a better person/I know you heard this and probably in fear” before delivering the hook with Pharrell Williams “Mass hallucination baby/Ill education baby/Want to reconnect with your elations/This is your station baby.”
This type of sound the first melodic composition we’ve heard from a rapper in a while, and Lamar’s closest comparison in the game right now is definitely Drake, who shares the stage with Kendrick on new song “Poetic Justice,” a clear standout track on Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. There’s no more definitive moment than when Lamar explains the hard-hitting content in “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and knowing the song garnered widespread attention in the hip-hop community. Deep cuts are still alive in the hip-hop world, y’all, and it’s thriving in the spirit of this 25-year-old romantic.