Torch Music Review

Shedding light on the music you should be listening to

Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, m.A.A.d city”

It’s hard to tell what the most impressive thing about Kendrick Lamar is—there are just so many things he’s been good at.

He possesses incredible ability, has overcome steep odds to get where he is and actually got Dr. Dre to release one of his protege’s records.

Kidding aside, Lamar is deservedly becoming a star after years of highly acclaimed independent work. This major label debut, a concept album about its creator’s tumultuous life growing up in Compton, is a powerful, heavy album that’s one of the best debuts in recent memory.

Lamar brings his true story to life, talking about the drugs, alcohol and violence around him in a way both believable and effective.

It simply works, whether it’s on the boastfulness of youth and inexperience (“Backseat Freestyle”), the inescapable spiral of addiction (“Swimming Pools (Drank), or the exhaustion of such a life (“Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”).

This is without even broaching the music itself. Lamar’s rapping is peerless on this album, some of the best of the year. The wordplay and rhythm—even the voices—are largely all superb. His talent permeates this album.

The album’s center is stacked with incredible tracks. The back-room chill of “Poetic Justice” shows off fellow up-and-comer Drake, followed by the triple-speed, epic beat of heavy standout “good kid” and the west coast-throwback of “m.A.A.d city” and its gangster rap vibe. Of all the great sequences of the album, this may be the best.

Though not everything works quite so supremely well; the biggest misstep is the suddenly victorious, big city, Dre-featuring finale “Compton,” which is a tonally out-of-place epilogue–the majority of “good kid, m.A.A.d city” does. It’s a bit heavy-handed, yet still very listenable, and having a happier throughline of family and an ending of success.

Lamar, to put it properly, kills it on “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” an album that will likely be considered a classic of the early part of the decade.