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

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

A few days after releasing 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city, the then-25-year-old Kendrick Lamar deemed his sophomore 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. After the release of his 2011 studio debut, Section.80, Lamar had landed a splashy deal with Interscope Records and Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment. Despite his newfound access to state-of-the-art recording spaces and high-profile producers, the rapper opted to return to his roots for good kid, m.A.A.d. city, spending time at the Carson home studio of Top Dawg Entertainment, where he wrote and recorded his debut set. 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 have 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. Case in point: “Swimming Pools (Drank),” a sobering tale of alcoholism that became a radio hit and earned a Grammy nomination. It’s just one of several beloved singles on good kid, m.A.A.d. city, which also includes such hits as “Backseat Freestyle,” “Poetic Justice,” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.” While good kid, m.A.A.d. city famously lost Best Rap Album to Macklemore at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, its legacy as a crucial example of American storytelling remains intact—and the album established Lamar as perhaps his generation’s most accomplished writer. As he puts it himself on good kid, m.A.A.d. city’s “The Art of Peer Pressure”: “Everybody sit yo’ bitch-ass down and listen to this true motherfuckin’ story told by Kendrick Lamar on Rosecrans, ya bitch.”

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