Review: Black Hippy member thrives in storytelling rap album

Kendrick Lamar's "good kid, m.A.A.d. city" is now available on iTunes | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City” is now available on iTunes. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar has built a name for himself by being one of the most emotional and technically skilled emcees with his releases “Overly Dedicated” and “Section .80.”

With his new album “Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City,” Lamar takes his stories as a young man living in Compton who struggles with crime, drugs and lust and enlarges them.

Lamar also looks at Compton from the angle of a U.S. citizen in today’s society and questions what happened in the past and how he became a product of his environment.

The album packs messages and substance, and Lamar triumphs as an artist with his ability to adapt rapping to storytelling.

Lamar’s journey comes to life as voicemail recordings from his parents and sound snippets reminiscent of street life snap in and out throughout the album.

With lines like “Brace yourself, I’ll take you on a trip down memory lane” from the track “m.A.A.d. city,” Lamar has a hitch for pulling the listener in and successfully capturing the madness of his hood by rapping his accounts in a tormented voice with an intense, cascading flow.

Detours from the struggle are prevalent throughout the album on tracks such as “Backseat Freestyle” where Lamar incorporates braggadocio over zonked out production by G.O.O.D. music affiliate Hit-Boy. While Lamar reaches a focused and mean snarl, he doesn’t quite inspire with any wowing feats on the mic.

One interesting approach Lamar uses is layering verses by singing the lyrics under the rapping as he does on tracks like “Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Sing About Me/I’m Dying of Thirst” — the latter being a heartfelt favorite due to Lamar’s character changes within the verses, whether it’d be his deceased brother or an old girlfriend.

By way of this album, Lamar doesn’t break any new ground with his craft or skill in rapping. There aren’t any new tricks pulled from the rapper that top the memorable sci-fi based, twisted and zoned-in lyricism on his previous work in “Section .80.”

On “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City,” Lamar showcases rewarding qualities, brought through by narrative — a unique aspect of hip-hop that carries throughout unlike any other genre. Street tales are brought to the forefront and issues are discussed that can resonate with a generation encountering the same things.

Listeners can walk away from “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” reminded of issues affecting them that haven’t been touched in such a way that Lamar has on this album — alcoholism, peer pressure and the struggle to dig a way out of the ill-minded streets and a problematic system.

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