The Austin Chronicle

Phases & Stages

Reviewed by Abby Johnston, January 25, 2013, Music

Kendrick Lamar

good kid, m.A.A.d city (Interscope)

Curating the next bass-laden party playlist lodges at the top of any short list for successful MCs. Judging from the truckloads of frat daddies and dimly lit crib gatherings pulsing the eerie beat from "Swimming Pools (Drank)," Kendrick Lamar has accomplished exactly that. Unfortunately, that means many have already missed the point. The second single from the 25-year-old Compton rapper's major label debut isn't cruising for Patrón-fueled pleasure. Instead, it offers equivocation between a life of alcoholism and casual drinking, thus making the song's mass reception nothing short of ironic. The album title says it all; Lamar's chronicles of a childhood on the streets of South Central Los Angeles describe an early life spent desperately trying to avoid rampant gang activity – the good kid thrown into a nouvelle Wild West. GKMC unfolds like a play, sectioned clearly into the day-to-day of 17-year-old Lamar's life and colored with voicemails from his foul-mouthed but caring parents. You can feel the struggle between a well-intentioned Lamar and his boasting alter-ego teen dreaming "Backseat Freestyle," with its palpable image of Lamar and his friends spouting off braggart quotables about money and power while they cruise in his mom's minivan. These kind of aspirations are atypical to the album as a whole, with the quotidian problems and longings of the title track making up the real heart of the album, a rough and tumble struggle to the top.


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