GOOD KID, M.A.A.D CITY (POLYDOR)
The hype being shoveled onto Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar’s major label debut is so overbearing that an objective listen might prove tricky. But even when approached cautiously, it’s hard to pick out a single flaw. Beats feel luxurious but never overcrowded, and the tone of soundscape flows from soulful to menacing, depending on the chapter of the album’s raised-in-the-ghetto narrative. Lamar has been brought to us by Dr Dre. But unlike Dre’s previous protégé-turned-megastar 50 Cent, whose morally deficient bottle-popping, gun-slinging, womanising caricature ruled as rap’s dominant archetype until the late noughties, Lamar’s stories are embedded with compassion, putting a fresh spin on themes of drugs, sex and gang mentality. In terms of delivery, Lamar’s flow is elastic and even the most technical verses are executed smoothly. The album is heavy on hooks, and while Money Trees might be as good as anything Andre 3000 has done, the self-consciously zany chorus of Backseat Freestyle could only be well received in a post-Kanye context, which might scare off casual listeners. Whenever an artist is touted as the next big thing, there’s a clamber to argue otherwise. But the idea of good kid, m.A.A.d city being referenced as a cornerstone in years to come is a genuine possibility.
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Words: David Reed