My Favorite’s of All Time #8: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘good kid, m.A.A.d. city’

I’m actually very surprised that I’ve made it this far into thursday email without writing something on Kendrick Lamar Duckworth! I mean, part of that makes sense; Kendrick isn’t really on my daily rotation right now, and he’s been awfully quiet these days, so he’s not on my mind right now. But I do love me some Kendrick, so he deserves his moment on here, just like all of my favorites. I was cleaning out my closet a couple days ago – had to move/throw away my high school things to make room for the things I’ve collected in my “adult life,” since I was going to be home for longer than I have since leaving for college – and I found my vinyl collection sitting in a crate with a toy dog my mom got me for my high school graduation. I don’t have very many records, but I’ve made it a point to build my collection more. Right now, I have Thriller (1982) and Bad (1987) by Michael Jackson (Thriller was a gift from one of my mom’s friends like 6 years ago), a couple of vinyls by New Edition, a Shalamar record, an Elton John record (I got it because “Tiny Dancer” is on there lol ), Ego Death (2015) by the Internet, Purple Rain (1984) by Prince, Taboo (2018) by Denzel Curry (I just got it a few days ago!), and untitled, unmastered (2016) and good kid, m.A.A.d. (2013) city by Kendrick Lamar. After Hours (2020) by The Weeknd and KOD (2018) by J. Cole are on the way, and I’m planning on getting Flower Boy (2017) and IGOR (2019) by Tyler soon. After seeing GKMC, I figured now was the right time to share my appreciation for that wonderful beast of an album.

You don’t know what pain is
How can I paint this picture
When the color blind is hangin’ with you?
Fell on my face and awoke with a scar
Another mistake livin’ deep in my heart
Wear it on top of my sleeve in a flick
I can admit that it did look like yours
Why you resent every making of this?
Tell me your purpose is petty again
But even a small lighter can burn a bridge
Even a small lighter can burn a bridge

Look inside of my soul and you can find gold and maybe get rich
Look inside of your soul and you can find out it never exist
I can feel the changes
I can feel a new life, I always knew life can be dangerous
I can say that I like a challenge and you tell me it’s painless

I was introduced to Kendrick Lamar by one of my high school friends. He was someone that I frequently shared music with, so he had a pretty good idea of what I liked to listen to. I had introduced him to Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap (2013), and in turn, he introduced me to Kendrick Lamar’s GKMC. He said he thought it was something that I’d like. So I proceeded to listen to the album, and I did like it. A LOT.

GKMC is – if I’m not mistaken – the first story album I’ve ever heard. I’ve heard albums where the songs are very much centered on a specific topic (the first one that comes to mind is Usher’s Confessions (2004)), but I don’t think I’d ever heard an album that played like a movie. And that’s something that I immediately liked about GKMC. Every song left me wanting to know what was gonna happen next. But even with this, each song can be listened to on its own; you don’t necessarily have to listen to the entirety of the project, which is usually the problem that I have with albums that have skits, etc. in the middle.

But also, this is one of those projects that I can very easily get lost in and end up listening to completely because it’s just THAT good. From beginning to end, Kendrick narrates a story of young black men growing up in Compton that’s set to some of the most expertly produced beats and instrumentals I’ve ever heard in my life. Like and Skhye Hutch did an incredible job on the production for “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.” The transition from the nostalgic but weighty first part of the song to the more haunting and suffocating second half is *chef’s kiss*. “Money Trees” is an absolutely beautifully DJ Dahi-produced song. Also Jay Rock BODIED his verse, and the chorus is iconic. THC and Sounwave did their thing on “m.A.A.D. city.” Like GKMC could have been a one-track project with just “m.A.A.d. city,” and I wouldn’t care lol. It’s just so full and robust. And that beat switch up for MC Eiht’s verse! GOD L E V E L! You can feel the chaos of the production pull you into the chaos of Kendrick’s story; every time I listen to it, I feel like my body is getting pulled by 8 different people in 8 different directions. And we gotta give some flowers to the T-Minus-produced “Swimming Pools.” Honestly, I think it was super impressive that Kendrick was able to pull a single (actually a few singles including “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”) out of this project, but like I said, the songs can very easily stand on their own. So I’m not super surprised. But impressed? Yep! Not to mention Kendrick’s bars, flows, and embodiment of different characters, along with the hilarious skits from his mom and dad.

I really could go on and on about GKMC, but it’s almost 10pm (edit: it is now 10:35 as I’m re-reading this lol), and I’m simultaneously listening to the album that I’ll be talking about on the upcoming First Listen (spoiler alert: it’s Denzel Curry’s Nostalgic 64 (2013)), so my brain is like “baby girl, what’s going ON?????? STOP IT!” So I’m going to leave it at that. Though Kendrick had BEEN making projects before GKMC, the project was his debut album. Which is always WILD to me when I think about it. It’s a project I’d expect from someone who is on their sixth album. It’s really an impressive introduction to an artist. And Kendrick has given us nothing but that same quality on every project since. I think GKMC is still my favorite out of the one’s he’s dropped so far, though; It’s really one of the best examples of a really good, well-developed album that I can think of. Kendrick did NOT come to play with us on GKMC. He told us a story that isn’t exactly new, if you’ve watched any hood movie that came out in the 90s a la Juice (1992) and Boyz N The Hood (1991), but he was able to take a story that we’re used to seeing in movie form and create a sonic experience that was just as vivid. And that’s not an easy thing to do.

And that’s what makes “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” one of my favorites of all time!


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