good kid, m.A.A.d city (Deluxe Version)

good kid, m.A.A.d city (Deluxe Version)

100 Best Albums A few days after releasing 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, the then-25-year-old Kendrick Lamar deemed his sophomore studio album “classic-worthy.” He wasn’t lying: Lamar’s sophomore album is one of the defining hip-hop records of the 21st century. On the surface, good kid, m.A.A.d city is a hood tragedy, with Lamar painting a vivid picture of Black and brown youths growing up in underserved communities. But the album is also powered by faith and hope, with Lamar chronicling his turbulent coming-of-age through a cast of compelling characters that portray the trauma, familial guidance, and relationships that led to his inevitable ascent. West Coast hip-hop elders like Snoop and Dre anointed Lamar to carry on the legacy of gangsta rap, and his second studio album—conceptual enough to be a rock opera—certainly uplifts the genre with its near-biblical themes: religion vs. violence and monogamy vs. lust. Sitting just a few miles from Compton, where much of good kid, m.A.A.d city takes place, Lamar pieced together tracks alongside collaborators Sounwave and Dave Free, both of whom had known the prolific rapper since high school. Throughout the writing process, Lamar would frequently return to his childhood neighborhood to relive the “mental space” he was in during the early days of his rap career, unearthing the deeply personal tales that came to shape the monumental artist. From the album’s opening scene—a collective prayer of gratitude—Lamar’s approach is entirely theatric (he even gives good kid, m.A.A.d city a subtitle: “A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar”). And he never misses an opportunity to hold listeners in his grip, unspooling a series of vulnerable confessions over the album’s 12 tracks. Graphic scenes of violence, addiction, and disillusionment are pervasive here. But Lamar makes even the harshest truths easy to swallow, as he does on “Swimming Pools (Drank),” a vivid tale of alcoholism. good kid, m.A.A.d city’s legacy is a crucial example of American storytelling that established the future Pulitzer Prize winner as perhaps his generation’s most accomplished writer.

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