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October 23rd, 2012

This Kendrick Lamar Record Is Sick

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Today marks the day of the official drop for the Compton native’s immaculate good kid, m.A.A.d. city. It’s a stunning piece of hip-hop. Yes, Pitchfork gave it a whopping 9.5 and a Best New Music designation. But only a legit spin and listen to every song on this record can make a listener understand the depth of this record. One of the most likeable things about it? It’s not about guest spots (even though there are some impressive and well-executed collabs). It’s not about radio hits and not really about selling out stadiums. It’s a poignant family portrait and autobiography full of sophistication and smarts.

The 25-year-old’s signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, a group of South Central L.A. emcees who sometimes call themselves Black Hippy. Jay Rock, ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul are the other three membbers of the four core homies. They often contribute to each other’s solo tracks, often without even getting credit for their appearance. But it seems like maybe Lamar’s exceeded his peers on this effort; or at least will bring Black Hippy to a new level with the success of this, his major label debut. After an EP and a digital-only iTunes released Section.80 (2011), Dr. Dre signed on as an Executive Prodducer and guests on the closing track, apropriately titled “Compton.”

It’s not a surprise to see a Dre connection. It’s hard not to envision Lamar’s Compton in relation to the Compton portrayed in Dr. Dre’s 1992 classic, The Chronic. The game’s changed a lot since then, but this record also testifies to the fact that it still stays the same – talent transcends trends. It doesn’t hurt that he was able to recruit already-strong talent in the form of Pharell, Drake, DJ Khalil, Hit-Boy and Just Blaze (among others). A classic trope of revealing hip-hop records is skits and voicemails, used perfectly on this one. Lamar’s mother is a character in this album, as is his father and his friends. The struggle of ghetto life is extraordinarily fleshed out through these and Lamar’s exceptional flow and lyrics. “Poetic Justice” deftly employs a perfect Janet Jackson sample. The insane “Backseat Freestyle” is a stunning feat of delivery. It’s full of sickening cuts.

Unfortunately, Lamar came through Philadelphia with a way-too-big clique in August. We need a date with him sans Wiz Khalifa and Wale. It’d be nice to see him sell out the TLA. We’ll no doubt be looking for a Lamar Philly date like a hawk and bringing you the news of his booking as soon as humanly possible. It will be a show not to be missed (bet the Black Hippy crew’ll show up, too).

It’s on Spotify. Go listen now. Then check out his Conan performance from last night on Conan.

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