To celebrate the fifth anniversary of Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city, writer Andreas Hale compares his debut album to the cinematic prowess of Quentin Tarantino.
Prior to October 22nd, the year 2012 was initially viewed as a down year in hip-hop. There was no Kanye West, Drake, Jay-Z or any of the heavy hitters with commercial solo releases. But it left the gate wide open for a new batch of emcees with the opportunity to put the industry in a stranglehold. The blog era emcees were just getting their feet under them and lyricism had yet to be appreciated by the mainstream.
The industry was in a unique place where the pipeline to free music courtesy of music blogs was cut off by major labels and the challenge to keep the attention of the listener was an uphill battle. The flood of releases began to break down the listening dam as our attention spans were haphazardly shaken due to the sheer amount of music spreading.
There was a lot of good music that dropped in 2012, as Nas got his mojo back and Frank Ocean burst onto the scene. Killer Mike set the foundation for Run The Jewels by collaborating with El-P for R.A.P. Music and Rick Ross broke the Internet with his free mixtape, Rich Forever.
But nothing came close to what was birthed out of Compton, California on October 22nd, 2012.
Nine days before Halloween was the day that Kendrick Lamar blessed the world with the first of arguably several modern day classic albums with good kid, m.A.A.d city. We knew it when we heard it, but many of us hesitated before recognizing what the Compton artist’s major label debut album was — sonically pristine, lyrically exceptional and the emergence of the torchbearer of the new era.
Despite being in an era of instant gratuity, the common rule of deeming an album a classic is to see whether or not it stands the test of time. But there are occasions when an album can circumvent the rulebook because the listener just knows that what they are hearing is special. Of course, nowadays the word classic is almost disposable considering how social media and the art of microwave journalism has diluted the term.
But Kendrick Lamar Duckworth was different.
Initially, the comparisons to Nas’ seminal classic Illmatic sounded premature. But as time went on, the comparison was adequate. Nas’ poetry was ahead of his time with a sonic backdrop that was simply brilliant. Kendrick Lamar was the West Coast version of that where he eschewed radio ready songs for a tightly knit album that was both a lyrical and sonic masterpiece.
It’s fascinating to think about how much the industry has changed since Kendrick Lamar burst into mainstream consciousness with his major label debut album good kid, m.A.A.d. city. Prior to that, the artist formally known as K-Dot and Top Dawg Entertainment were challenged with trying to climb the mountain of relevancy on their own. It was a daunting task that would require a special talent to achieve. It reshaped the game entirely on the back of a semi-autobiographical project.