2. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city
This album. What can I say about it that hasn't already been said by every music critic? Coming into this album I was more of a fan of Kendrick Lamar’s potential than I was his output. His 2011 album, Section.80, was only 40th on my list last year; I loved about half of the album, but the other half bored me. Kendrick was finding himself, and he’d prove only a year later, with this album, that he’s ready to take over the genre. This is a (mostly) nonfiction concept album: the narrative running throughout the album concerns Kendrick as a high school sophomore. He acts a fool with some friends who aren't good for him (in his crime-torn neighborhood in Compton), gets high for the first time (on a blunt laced with coke), gets jumped by some dudes as he was trying to hook up with this girl, gets his friends, goes back for revenge, ends up losing a good friend in a firefight, and ultimately rejects the gangbanger lifestyle. I mean, that’s it in a nutshell. There’s more. The weird thing is that this is Kendrick’s major label debut…but as his national introduction he chooses to present who he used to be instead of who he is. As a narrative and concept it works though. All of the beats are slick and carefully chosen. Kendrick pulls off some next-level flows on this album pretty effortlessly. These song structures are incredibly ambitious for hip-hop. This album is nearly flawless, actually. I don’t really love the track “Real,” which is the narrative moment of change (and as a result should be amazing, but the hook falls really, really flat for me). But aside from that everything is superb. “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” absolutely knocks. “Backseat Freestyle” is an intentionally ignorant track from the perspective fo a drunk and high 16 year old, and features some dialed-in, most-going-hard-verse-of-the-year style flow. The tracks “Good Kid” and “m.A.A.d. city” combine to show off a dazzling array of versatile rapping. The last track, “Compton,” features Dr. Dre (rapping to some verses that Kendrick pretty obviously wrote) and it feels like a super-triumphant passing of the torch thanks to a stellar Just Blaze beat that incorporates some Roger Troutman-style vocoder. It holds up after dozens of listens, and you find new wrinkles to be impressed with each time you go through it. Most years, an album like this would be an easy number one. It’s a must-own.
Originally Posted by Delano
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