Review: Kendrick Lamar’s professional debut confuses, impresses

Ryan Morris

Editor’s note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.

Kendrick Lamar, who has been dubbed by critics as hip-hop’s savior, can rap his ass off.

Lamar released one of the best rap albums of 2011 with the independently released “Section.80”.
Legends such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg (Lion), and countless others have passed the West Coast baton to Lamar.

With all of these recipes for success, Lamar somehow managed to release a remarkably generic album, with his newest project, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.”

As with Drake’s 2010 project “Thank Me Later”, the incredible amount of hype surrounding this release gave it no breathing room or space for mistakes to be made.

Lamar still raps well, displaying his signature double time flow backed by the rasp in his voice that makes the listener want to offer him glass of water.

Each song on the album ends with audio of a group of friends chopping it up in Compton, Calif., talking about various themes such as gangbanging, murdering, and a cockiness that comes with being a member of a gang. The narrative is supposed to be a cautionary tale about the life of a gang member, with the last snippet of audio resulting in a death of one of the members.

There is an overall sense of contradiction within the instruments that make up this album, which is ultimately its biggest downfall.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, this album bounces back and forth between instrumentals which provide Lamar the proper backdrop necessary to showcase his one-of-a-kind voice, and Lex Luger-esque beats that do Lamar no favors other than lending the listener a first impression of ignorance, based only on the fact that the usual subject matter recited over these types of beats are the antithesis of what Lamar preaches.

While unfair to make assumptions of this matter, it is not an easy one to get over, unless this choice in beats is intended to be sarcastic – which would be hilarious – but the listener cannot make a correct call of judgment unless Lamar has spoken on such subjects.

Songs such as “Good Kid”, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”, and ‘The Art of Peer Pressure”, are contrasted by “M.A.A.D. City”, “Swimming Pools”, and “Backstreet Freestyle”, which make the album inconsistent and difficult to categorize. It seems as if Lamar was in different spheres of thought while recording GKMC, Lamar’s appropriate major label debut.

GKMC is by no means a bad album, however, and the release cannot be fully appreciated as of right now, all because of the hype.

Hype makes and breaks an artist, in that order. The verdict is out that Lamar is infinitely talented, but no man can be expected to release a masterpiece on their first go around. Not everyone is Notorious B.I.G., The Strokes, or Guns N’ Roses.

GKMC’s true impact and an unbiased, unassisted-by-hype opinion cannot be made until the waters subside, and the Kendrick Lamar bandwagon becomes unhitched and the horses go from a sprint to a steady trot.

2.5/4 Stars

Story: WILL GREENE, A&E Reporter