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Hip hop artist aims big with debut studio album

By Billy Rafael
On October 30, 2012

Compton-based rapper Kendrick Lamar has been putting out music since 2002 but only recently started gaining momentum in 2010 with his mixtape Overly Dedicated. Since then he has been busy, putting out an independent album in 2011 and dropping his first studio album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, this month, not to mention appearing on tracks all over the place as a feature.

Good kid is a unique ride, clocking in at an impressive 72 minutes for 12 tracks. It tells Lamar's story growing up in a city known for its gangs and violence. The whole album is interspersed with low-quality recordings of conversations, phone calls and voice mails that are all authentic enough that the listener is left wondering if they're real or scripted. When the clips are spliced together they tell the story of a gang shooting from both sides, mixed with examples of the Christian influences in Lamar's childhood.

While the whole album has a chilled out vibe to it despite the often serious content, production varies from track to track, allowing for some bass-bumping slower tracks such as "Money Trees" as well as some more in-your-face tracks such as the title track "good kid." Lamar's flow is very rhythmic and comes easily to the point where it's not clear whether he even needs to think about rapping or if that's just how he always talks. He has a raspy, higher-pitched voice and is not the best singer but he knows how to play to his strengths and mix things up to keep them interesting.

The album is sprinkled nicely with guest artists, including some higher profile names like Dr. Dre and Drake along with some lesser known but on-the-rise artists like Jay Rock, with whom Lamar has collaborated with in the past. Tracks to watch for are "Backseat Freestyle," produced by the popular Hit-Boy and "Sing About Me/I'm Dying of Thirst," a twelve-minute-long introspective look at what his legacy would be if he were to die as well as a look forward at what he hopes to achieve through his success, with an interlude in the song overlaid with the recording of the direct aftermath of the shooting.

Lamar is not for everyone. He does not confine himself to the mainstream standards set forth by hip hop and chooses to work with what he feels are his best skills. However, if you are a hip hop fan with a little over an hour to spare and an open mind, it's worth your time to give good kid, m.A.A.d city a listen.

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