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Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city

Kendrick Lamar is keen to capture his adolescent years’ volatile mind frame by reminiscing, accepting and sharing his inner demons and bitter memories. Even more so than his remarkable independent releases, Overly Dedicated and Section 80, good kid, m.A.A.d city is a true display of his meticulous nature. The quality of precision shows in the music, the lyrics, the concepts, and the structure, making the Compton native’s debut one of the most cohesive bodies of work in recent rap memory.

It starts with a recording of a prayer, and fades in on a 17-year-old Kendrick, whose focus in life is pillaging of “pussy.” Fluidly dashing and pausing over a nocturnal backdrop, K-Dot’s lustful mind frame only awakes with the encounter of two gang bangers. Just like that, the anecdotal intro, “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter,” which creates the mise en scène for the album, cuts into the first of many voicemail recordings (essentially interludes) from Kendrick’s mother and father. Not only do these voicemails adjoin the plotline, but they also aid as reminders for young Lamar to stray from the street life, serving as yin to the violence-driven yang of Compton.

It’s crucial to note throughout the majority of good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar plays himself as a 17-year-old teenager, who’s driving around Los Angeles in his mother’s caravan with his gang-affiliated homies. This narrative is the mainstay throughout the project. It accentuates a sense of excitement, shedding light on a side of the talented wordsmith that hasn’t been dissected until now. Starting with “Backseat Freestyle,” with its bigmouth, punch-line antics over a thumping Hit-Boy production, this is a pre-fame MC who’s foolishly blazing off raps with friends. It doesn’t, however, means the flow is elementary or his quotable are shabby; he channels multiple voices and executes crisp-clean double- and triple-time bonanza with ease.

But fun and games aren’t the only elements that constitute a young Kendrick’s late-night escapade. On “The Art of Peer Pressure”—a spacious, internal monologue—he highlights the rowdy behaviors he displays in front of his friends, while having an almost opposite sentiment inside his psyche. This thought further explores on a more in-depth lane on “good kid,” in which the first-two verses discuss the allure and fear administered by—quite ironically—gangs and police sirens that both flaunt colors red and blue.

The album reaches a creative and cinematic climax on “m.A.A.d city.” Whether it was meant to depict his puberty or the panting sufferings of reality, K.L. purposely tweaks his voice into a higher pitch, and frantically describes the “mad” elements of Compton. Gun-driven, gang violence widespread throughout the ‘hood has become a part of Kendrick’s DNA. It’s a tempting draw, even when he attempts to fight it. And toward the end of this epic, the rapper epitomizes his lineage claiming that he’s an “angel,” who was made on “angel dust.”

After the violence subsides, Kendrick leads the “short film” near its epilogue on “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.” The first-two verses speak from the perspectives of siblings as subjects that Kendrick touches on current and previous albums. It’s a tearjerker, and an impressive delivery of emotions that can’t help but let the listeners visualize empathetic portraits of those gunned down and faded away.

While Kendrick rolls deep, affiliated with TDE and Aftermath, there’s not a bevy of features. All of the guest appearances on the project assist as cameos with fitting roles. Drake on the suave, love serenade “Poetic Justice,” Jay Rock on the tale of hustler’s ambitions in “Money Trees,” MC Eiht serving OG knowledge on “m.A.A.d city,” and Dr. Dre passing the torch to Kendrick on “Compton” all serve a thematic purpose. None of their names or verses outshines the star of the movie. They’re all knitted into the drape known as good kid, m.A.A.d city, helping to mold a fuller image.

Overall, good kid, m.A.A.d city is an invigorating LP. Every record is both complexly arranged and sonically fitting, foregrounding Kendrick’s vivid lyricism and amazing control of cadence. There’s not a single loophole. From the prayers on “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter” to the triumphant ending on “Compton,” each skit and track interweaves one another, solidifying a complete picture. While only time can determine the album’s fate, this life chronicle of Kendrick has all—if not more—of the qualities rap’s now living and deceased legends have carved in stone. It’s an undeniably stellar major label debut from Kendrick Lamar, which will certainly hurt the self-esteem of many rappers out now while also inspiring them to reach these heights. —Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)

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  • wat

    This was an amazing review. Props to Jaeki Cho. Everything was spot-on and well-written.

  • Glenn Patrick

    Glad some publications aren’t afraid of giving out a perfect rating when it’s due.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ronald.jack Ronald Jack

    Wow. One thing I liked about the production of this album is that the beats are different from current hip hop albums and it sounded like all the producers were on the same page. It almosts seems as if the whole album was produced by one person. That’s how smoothly the album flows. Great Album Kendrick.

    • peter

      The beats actually werent that different from mainstream hip hop… i like this album, but beatswise, its nothing radical…

      • http://www.facebook.com/ronald.jack Ronald Jack

        To me it sounded more melodic. It wasn’t just some 808s and claps. And I think Kendrick also took a different approach to making songs. There were also some songs were the beat changes midway. I don’t know to me it just sounded different. Even the lead single swimming pools is completly different than the top 10 of hip hop songs now. Not saying the top 10 are bad, I’m just saying this album was different

        • Patrick

          drake’s and frank ocean’s last albums, they both had the beat change midway through on a song. kanye has done stuff like that. and the overall aesthetic is something that’s been developing over the last few years. great album though.

          • http://www.facebook.com/ronald.jack Ronald Jack

            It’s still different. Frank Ocean is not a rapper. Kanye for the most part produces his own beats so he has more control over the overall sound of his album and I’m not even going to pretend I listen to drake.

  • joe

    fuckin great review and classic album! THIS IS HIP-HOP, play your rap somewhere else

  • trexxx

    Amazing album. When I listen to it, it was more than music, it was a story of a person just like me with dreams, fear, dangers, trouble, happiness, adolescence and maturity. He stayed true to his roots he kept it original but different. God bless Kendrick Lamar and hip hop.

    • Jayceon Mace’em

      I’m sure but i am really just diggin that song that goes ” SMOKIN WEED WITH YOU, AND YOU BURNED MY TOUQUE’”- love that song and that saying cuz I always burn or piss on my touques so I feel that shit he spittin

  • Joey Boots

    Meeks album >>>

    • guest

      meek mill is irrelevant

    • Tyrone

      haha big sarcasm I see what you did there

  • R.John

    2012 might not be a fucking legend, but the rise of a legend.
    Gonna give the haters an XXL hate.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Billys-Kingdom/100002933798378 Billy’s Kingdom

      honestly don’t think anyones gonna argue. people bin feeling k.dot 4 a minute.

      • HYFR

        You might want to find out what Shyne thinks about the album lol

        Great album tho!

  • best rapper

    That 2 instant classic point blank

  • KingChandler

    Great Review, very much deserved too, I honestly think the only reason beats didn’t get an XXL is because they don’t make any review absolutely perfect across the board, at least not to my knowledge. Too bad they screwed up on Lupe’s rating and only gave him an XL when he definately deserved an XXL as well, Kendrick, Lupe and Nas have 3 of the most refreshing albums I’ve heard in a long time in this watered down game.

  • 2012Industry1

    Great review Jakei, Great Damn Review! Reminds me of the review I read in ’94 in the Source with Gang Starr on the cover. You know, the one when they gave Illmatic 5 Mics! West Coast is Back!!! He set the bar REAL HIGH for Meek, and all other new artists!

  • CommonSense

    wtf this was XL not a XXL ppl are being clouded by the hype

    • http://www.facebook.com/javier.hernandez.3382 Javier Hernandez

      Have you listened to the album?

      • CommonSense

        yes i have

    • nah

      you prolly one of those dudes thought lupe joint was xxl

  • http://www.facebook.com/lugine.gray Lugine Gray

    2 classics under his belt

  • Kevin D.

    Kendrick Lamar: Single handedly bringing the REAL Hip-Hop back!

  • Bueller

    Great review. One thing though: when he says his angel is on angel dust, he’s referring to his city. Los Angeles (The angel) is corrupted by gangs, drugs, and violence, which he depicts as PCP. Obviously, the phrase is open to interpretation, and there are many meanings to be found in it, but this is the central meaning.

    • burbeer

      Yes, but it is also referring to the fact that he smoked his first joint but somebody had put angel dust in it. He said it in an interview.

      • daniel scenery

        yeh if you listen to one of the skits his homies are jokin around and checking if kendrick had just hit the joint with the “shenanigans” in it.. probably a underlying reference to that also. hes so detailed god damn

        • therealjjohnson

          yeah he even said in a song “you wouldnt smoke anymore either if your first blunt had you foaming at the mouth” or something to that extent

          • Bueller

            Ah good call. I didn’t put two and two together

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrewxsantos Simon Santos

    Good Kid M.A.A.d city one word. Outstanding. Masterfully put together, tight flows, manner of delivery of sometimes morbid content done in a socially acceptable manner, this album appeals to not only dedicated hip-hop fans but also the passive ‘hip-pop’ chart listeners. It is evident this album is meant to be the gate-way drug if you will to the world of alternative hip-hop music (You know, the plethora of hip-hop music hardly recognised by anyone outside of the Youtube community) with tracks such as ‘Swimming Pools’ and ‘the recipe’ speaking to the apathetic weed smoking indie/ hipster/ neo-hippy playstation generation and for the time being It would be hard to refute the claim that Lamar is primarily an alternative hip-hop artist. Akin to what is expected of A$AP Rocky’s impending debut, the overall sound of this album is so different to what has came before. Take for example ‘Sing about me’ and its smooth jazz like sound or ‘Sherane’ which can only be described as possessing a strange alien undertone. It reminds me of the progressive rock music of the seventies, Could Lamar be to Alt Rap what Pink Floyd was to Prog Rock? Only time will tell but the cynic in me is screaming that this may be the prerequisite to another rapper turned chart mule i.e making alot of noise to get attention and then being obedient to the time tested formula of making a shit load of money as we have seen so many times before. However, I would leave this notion to pure speculation for the time being as what Lamar seems to be doing and what GKMC is representing is nothing less than the progression of rap music and I am excited at the possibility of what this could mean.

    • Real

      Not to go at the small things in what was an otherwise great commentary, but this is not “alt rap.” This is hip-hop and this is a major step forward in bringing it back to the forefront of “mainstream” music.

  • Teese

    Great review!! He definitely deserves it!!! This is a great album and real hip hop!!

  • Juan

    FUCK THIS!!!!!

  • Breeze

    One of the best Album I ever heard!! Point Blank!!

  • Hip-Hop Head

    Thank god they finally gave out an XXL to an album that deserved it. This was one of the few well written XXL reviews I’ve read in recent history.

  • Very Reasonable Citizen

    Good god, I havent heard an album like this in a GOOD minute. I will actually purchase this rather than download it. If hip hop artist pumped out more stuff like this, labels could move units like it was ’98.

    • seittit

      agreed, this album is solid gold.

      hip hop has been stale since ’98, i’ve been wondering if i’ve been all alone in that realization.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimberly.king.5243 Kimberly King

    This deserves every bit of this rating. This shit is a CLASSIC.

  • JaffarR

    This album is ahead of its time. Perfection from start to finish.
    The best hip-hop debut since Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor.

    • Bryan Pennington

      Its not his debut though..

  • http://www.MalikFerraud.com/ Money

    Great review.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Billys-Kingdom/100002933798378 Billy’s Kingdom

    listening to this really makes section 80 (one of my favourite albums) sound alot more like a mixtape

  • Guest

    it’s a good album but nothing more. nevertheless i felt disappointed after i already knew section 80 and the previously published songs from the good kid album.

  • oxl

    it’s a good album but nothing more. nevertheless i felt disappointed
    after i listened to section 80 and the previously published songs from
    the good kid album.


    perfect review this album is dope!!!

  • SupremeGut

    @JaekiCho [In your first paragraph] “meticulousness” is a noun, you want the adjective “meticulous.”

  • K.Dot 4 President!!

    Wow I had lost faith in XXL reviews until now… This Album is fuc’n AWESOME!!

  • BlackenChineseMan


  • BrianRaider

    Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Congrats Kendrick I Feel Yall All The Way, I Had Wanted Rick Ross To Get This XXL I Feel He Deserved It But I Think Yalls Arguement Is Substance Over Style Or Style With Substance And This GKMC Is Drippin Out The Seems With Substance, Reflection, Intelligence, And Great Production…. Congrats Kendrick. I Agree With Yalll! ON This!!!

  • BrianRaider

    Fuckin Jaeki Cho…. Hell Yea Wow I Think U Did God Forgives I Dont Too. Great Fuckin Review. Damn Man WoW!

  • Anthony Dixon

    lupe did not deserve an xxl… #gkmc does but this one is granted

  • http://twitter.com/mjfadeaway224 MJ

    This album will go down as one of the best albums of all time for any genre just like Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, Ready to Die and the other rap albums that are considered the best of all time. When those albums came out we didn’t understand how great they because were very young at the time. Now we have a chance to witness a classic and a legend in the making. The storytelling is amazing. It’s like a movie. You can’t just listen to a couple of songs or skip through. You have to listen straight through from beginning to end.

  • thetruth

    this a classic in todays standards

  • Jo

    I really like this album but i cant flex i liked section 80 more but this is a great album

  • noah

    only an XL for beats? they match the lyrical mood of every single song. They dont have to all be bangers. C’mon now

  • ff1one

    I haven’t left a comment on what use to be m favortie site in ages. However, this album has reignited hip hop. Real talk i describe this album as perfect. At first, I was a little lost by the “skits” because they have been missing in hip hop. I was thrown off by the fact that all the songs were woven together. It was like revisiting illmatic but with a new age flow, more creativity, better beats, hell everything we have now. I mean, the lyrics, concepts, story telling, metaphors are all just amazing. Add in the fact that we got to see this kid grow from k.dot to kendrick lamar. He set the bar. Please follow.

  • CDA2023

    Pac died at 25. Kendrick starts to carry the throne at 25 should be some good years to come

    • One eyed G

      That an Insult to pac, wash ya mouth out ni##a!

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicokwaro Victor Okwaro

    now this is how you write a review! excellent…

  • opium

    This is blasphemous you guys have lost all your credibility with this review.

  • jboogie216

    Just got my vinyl copy in the mail. Instant classic.

  • loling

    It hurt my self esteem as a rapper no doubt

  • dafuq

    Album was wack as fuck. And I’m a Kendrick fan, minus Compton and Swimming Pools, the rest of that bullshit should’ve been thrown off the album, how the FUCK are people saying this is a classic?

    • http://www.facebook.com/PhillyMu Muneer Smith

      Hopefully, you’ll LISTEN to this album a few more times if you consider yourself a Kendrick fan. I emphasize “listen” because you probably don’t understand all the praise GKMC is getting because you’ve just HEARD the album. You can’t listen to this the same way you listen to a Rick Ross mixtape. You really have to sit the hell down, open up your ears and mind and take in the music. It really is like a cinematic experience. If you say this album is “wack as fuck” I don’t think you can truly call yourself a Kendrick fan because this album puts all of his previous music into perspective by shedding light on who he is and how he grew up. I know it’s just your opinion, but I think after more listens you’ll feel differently.

  • Will

    Kendrick, Nas, and Killer Mike dropped some HEAT this year. Hip Hop is back!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/JacqueStahzeePap Marc J Pappas

    This is definitley a great album, Im feelin it. But lets not get carried away putting on the same level as Illmatic. Its a classic for todays stndards, but not quite on the level of Illmatic or Moment of Truth.

    • Tur7les

      this is exactly the reason that hip hop is where it is today, you need to give the album a chance to be as good as illmatic etc. it has potential to be as good, illmatic didnt have another illmatic to be held up against so it went down as a classic. nothing is going to be illmatic just like you’ll never see another ready to die… you have to give the few real artists a chance to be able to put them selves in that category and not end up as another “rapper” trying to make a million.

  • Lindsey

    Wow. I don’t even like hip hop really but this was so 80′s baby meets OutKast I couldn’t help myself. Everyone isn’t into hype, some of us just want someone to tell OUR story!

  • Adam

    This album is so overrated, doesent deserve an XXL at all

    • http://www.facebook.com/PhillyMu Muneer Smith

      I’d sure like to know what you’re listening to these days that deserves a XXL rating if this album doesn’t… I’ll wait…

      • Adam

        i never said anything else deserved an XXL. Most of the new music from rappers is far from an XXL. People only think this is so good cos of the “hype” he had and cos its different to the generic pop bullshit from the likes of lil wayne, still doesent make it an XXL though.

  • A$E

    Kendrick Lamar, best rapper out so far (not counting the veterans; like jay, Nas, quik), call me regionally biase if you want to, westcoast radio stations need to stop being held hostage and support their artist, i like other regions but fu@k them they’re not westcoast.

  • Mr Madd Havikk

    Definitely well deserved. I think Kendrick just fucked the industry up with this one. It’s more like a chapter in the autobiography of Compton.

  • AlexFirth91

    Looks like Aftermath got another classic “2001″ , “The Marshall Mathers LP”, “Get Rich or Die Tryin”, now “good kid, m.A.A.d city”

  • Menes_323

    I’m Just Glad It Came From The Best Side…The West Side! If the newer generation is sick of Hip-Pop, go listen to the 90′s!

  • SDK


  • Keemie

    I haven’t felt an emotional connection to an album like this since Petey Pablo’s ‘Diary of a Sinner: First Entry.’

  • Salvador Alcala

    Dr. Dre’s Rappers Always Go Classic…..Eminem, 50 Cent,The Game, And Now Kendrick Lamar. He is so lyrical…. He Is Already Killing The Rap Game With This Album…….God Damn He Is Going To Murder It With More Of His UP Coming Albums They are All Going To Rate XXl….
    This Is The Best Album I Bought This Year!!!!!!!!!!

  • DUKE

    for once they got something right…

  • Tur7les

    hip hop has been on a slow decline since the demise of two of the worlds greatest…(no need to name names) 90% of the “artists” that have been given the right to move hip hop forward have failed and remind me of a cancer that has been spreading constantly, and has increased its pace of corrosion over the years until eventually there would be nothing left to separate hip hop from the rest of the music industry,.. recently it seems there has been almost some sort of anti venom to treat the cancer… with the likes of slaughterhouses individual brilliance and lyricism as well as others such as cyhi da prynce and fred da godson on the rise… it seems the peoples voice has finally been heard and the hip hop that once was is on its way back to its roots… cannot wait to hear this wordsmith produce some of the brilliance i have been searching for… hip hop was never dead it just lost its way.

  • Bryan Pennington

    I would have given the beats an XXL as well. Every beat carries the mood of the song so well

  • One eyed G

    How this get a XXL !!!!

  • Jayceon Mace’em

    I hate pretty much all rap cept the ill Shyne, Biggie Smalls & some 2Pac but I am diggin this younster KL- nugget got some heat! CAN ANYONE TELL ME THE NAME OF SONF WHERE THESE LYRICS ARE REPEATED THROUGH THE MELODY: ” SMOKIN WEED WITH YOU, AND YOU BURNED MY TOUQUE’” love that song and that saying cuz I always burn or piss on my touques so I feel that shit he spittin

  • smjaz

    NICE! XXL stat .

  • Richard James

    Best album I have herd in a long time, in fact I haven’t really been this impressed with an album since Lupe dropped The Cool. Not sure if that means it is a classic though. XXL is so shitty and inconsistent with their ratings (way to many XLs and some real questionable Ls) so the XXL rating means nothing to me, and it certainly doesn’t mean classic. Classics stand the test of time, so we will see where m.A.A.d city stands 5-10 years from now. A very quality album though. Very quality.

  • Purple finger waves

    When I first heard Kendrick I was like “Who is that?” Then I bought GKMC and said “Well God damn! this guy is a breath of fresh air.” Then I decided to look up some of his earlier music. I fell in LOVE. Kdot…you are the SHIT!!!!!!!!!

  • Michael Young

    I agree with Ronald Jack.The album was different but it was hot.Kendrick is a breath of fresh air.The album was a 100% hip hop.

  • J,C

    Overall , Amazing.

  • WhereIsMy304s

    This album is the best album I’ve heard in a very long time. This was a perfect album from the beats, subject matter, & lyrics. This is a classic in my book.

  • JJJ

    the best proof of how much of big fucktards critics are.

  • Ben Joven

    does anybody know if those are real voicemails or actors on the album? regardless the album is pretty awesome…but I was just wondering…