Catching Up with Kendrick Lamar: Before good kid, m.A.A.d city
Kendrick Lamar's new album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, is a remarkable feat. In an era when blog-certified stars frequently compromise their major label debuts with pop radio gimmicks, Lamar's Interscope bow is just as exhilaratingly conceptual as his two independent albums, 2010's Overly Dedicated and 2011's Section.80. So it's worth re-charting how he got from there to here by sampling from all three records, and including a few of his many guest appearances for both his Black Hippy fam (Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q) and West Coast rappers like the Game, E-40, and Casey Veggies. The result demonstrates that while Lamar has grown and improved as a songwriter, he hasn't radically changed his approach. He delivers circuitous arguments that can both rationalize and criticize someone's actions at the same time, like on Schoolboy Q's "Birds & Beez," where he sympathizes and expresses frustration at Schoolboy's block hustling in equal measure. And he's a great storyteller, as his vivid memories of bumping the Game's The Documentary for the latter's "The City" proves. Whether or not you agree Kendrick Lamar is the best lyricist of the new school – Jay Electronica and J Cole, among others, deserves consideration – it's inarguable that he has fully capitalized on his talents.