Last night my friend said he was in danger of overdosing on rapper Kendrick Lamar’s major-label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d. city. “It’s so good,” he said, “and I need to ease up.” But easing up is exactly what Lamar never seems to do—he’s relentless, both in his delivery of memoiristic narrative and demonstrations of technical skill.
Receiving a near-unthinkable 9.5 rating from Pitchfork, Lamar’s album swerves between the countless current demands on hip-hop, from the slinky, bong-ready vibe on the appropriately named “Bitch, Dant Kill My Vibe” to the absolute club-banger beasthood of the next track, “Backstreet Freestyle,” which flat-out destroys similar efforts on Kanye’s Cruel Summer project.
The secret weapon, not that Lamar is hurting for one, is Dr. Dre, who first shows up on “Compton,” named for the infamous city both rappers grew up in. With a blaring horn section at their backs, Dre and Lamar explain in no uncertain terms what their home is all about. But bonus track “The Recipe,” also featuring Dr. Dre, may be even better. Either way, it’s an exciting debut (of sorts) and a signal that while Jay-Z has his hands full with the Brooklyn Nets, the West Coast scene is in Renaissance mode.
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