Good kid, m.A.A.d city is Kendrick’s follow up to his debut studio album Section.80, an album released through L.A. based indie label Top Dawg Entertainment. Section.80 was released to great praise from fans and critics alike, receiving an 8 out of 10 from Pitchfork.com and reaching number 1 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers Albums, and peaking at 13 for Billboard’s Top Rap Albums. However, all this success was quickly overshadowed with the release of good kid, m.A.A.d city, an album which debuted at number two on Billboard’s 200 chart, selling 242,000 copies in the first week alone. It has since sold over 657,000 copies, being certified by the RIAA as a gold album.
The album starts with the playing of a taped recording of a few young men, praying to God to ask Jesus to be their savior, something that becomes a monumental theme within the story of the album. Kendrick soon tells the story of how he first met Sherane, a woman who has caught his eye, but upon talking to her finds out she isn’t from Compton, and her family has ties to gangs and he knows he should just leave her alone. However this doesn’t stop him, and after chatting with her all summer he finally is going to be with her. So he borrows his moms van and drives over to her house, only to find two guys in black hoodies on her porch waiting for him.
Kendrick’s mother can be heard all throughout the album leaving messages on his phone, asking Kendrick to bring her van back so she can go pickup the families food stamps. This, along with different skits about the life of a young man thrown into the belly of Compton’s gang violence, provide a wonderful flow throughout the album that really can only be fully appreciated and understood when put into the context of the whole album. This album, despite the wonderful individual tracks, is meant to be listened start to finish. The cover of the album in which Kendrick writes good kid, m.A.A.d city a short film by Kendrick Lamar, reinforces this idea.
After the murder of one of his friends in the streets of Compton, Kendrick begins to become overwhelmed in the lifestyle he has chosen, and turns to alcohol to try to numb the pain, but quickly finds that he has a thirst that alcohol can’t quench. His mother and father leave him a message telling him of how worried they are for him, and that the only thing that can quench his thirst is the holy water of Jesus Christ’s forgiveness.
The album concludes with his mother telling him how Top Dawg label called looking for him and that they want him to come to the studio. She goes on to tell him to be a shining light for the kids of Compton, to show them that they don’t have to live in the violent gang lifestyle, and that when he makes it he needs to give back to his great city, which has made him the man that he is.
Good kid, m.A.A.d city is one of the most interesting albums I have ever had the privilege to listen. The story is captivating and Kendrick’s delivery is wonderful. His influences shine through his style but in a way that sounds like homage to the great rappers he looks up to, rather than a repeat of his favorite rappers. The most notable tribute comes on the final track of the album “Compton” in which Kendrick makes an obvious reference to Tupac’s “California Love” by using a vocoder to achieve the same vocal sound. “Compton” is a glorious ending to the story of good kid, m.A.A.d city, in which Kendrick has become “king” and in the end of day there still just “ain’t no city” quite like Compton.