“I am a sinner who’s probably gonna sin again,” raps Kendrick Lamar in the second track on his second full-length record, good kid, m.A.A.d city. The lyric sets the tone for the album, a record that details the life, troubles, and guilt Lamar experienced growing up in Compton, California.
With the release of last year’s critically acclaimed independent record Section.80, a concept album inspired by the works of Tupac Shakur, Lamar set the foundation for his sound.
Throughout good kid, Lamar’s rapping succeeds through its pacing. Rather than relying on cliché rhymes at cliché times, Lamar uses rapid-fire delivery and well-placed stress to create innovative rhymes. Candid and unwilling to censor himself, Lamar evokes early Eminem, with a hint of Li’l Wayne in the audaciousness of his lyrics, such as in “Backseat Freestyle”.
The album standout “Poetic Justice” uses a looped female vocal track reminiscent of Ludacris’ “Splash Waterfall”. That the track features Drake makes it a sure R&B hit, flashy and ready for urban radio.
While Lamar is an excellent rapper himself, good kid also shines in its samples, including Kanye West, Janet Jackson, Kool and the Gang, and even indie duo Beach House. Lamar draws his listeners in with well-chosen and well-executed samples that complement his lyrics and hooks.
The album ends with “Compton”, an ode to the city in which Lamar grew up, featuring Dr. Dre. As a lyricist and a storyteller, Lamar succeeds by holding nothing back and being candid, conversational, and sincere, particularly on this track.
As the art Lamar created out of pain, guilt, and the remorse of his past, good kid is a satisfying album that reinforces a new name in hip-hop. But it’s only the beginning for this good kid. MMMM