One of the great young talents in rap music, Kendrick Lamar (full name Kendrick Lamar Duckworth) (June 17, 1987)is a Compton born rapper who released his first mixtape at the tender age of sixteen. Having signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, Kendrick continued to pump out acclaimed mixtapes and finally released his debut album in 2011, titled Section.80. The album won him great critical acclaim and revealed to the public the great potential the young MC had, including Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, who crowned him the "New King of the West Coast" at a concert. With this, Kendrick signed to both Interscope and Aftermath and in 2012 released his second full length, good kid, m.A.A.d city, an album which has been highly regarded and held as one of the best albums of 2012.Kendrick is known for delivering politically charged, story driven, and often nostalgic lyrics, drawing on his experiences growing up in a bad neighborhood. This is particularly expanded upon in good kid, m.A.A.d city, an album all about his teenage years and experiences with drugs, alcohol and gang violence. He has cited Tupac Shakur, The Notorious BIG, Eminem, Jay-Z, Nas, DMX, and Andre 3000 as influences for his music.
Tropes present in his life and work:
Anachronic Order: The narrative of good kid, m.A.A.d city jumps back and forth between Kendrick getting jumped on his way to meet Sherane, hanging out with his friends, and voicemails from his parents. The story ultimately begins at the end of the second track, when K.Dot (Kendrick's younger self) is invited to come along with some friends.
Ascended Fanboy: This is true of most rappers, but Kendrick (especially in good kid, m.A.A.d city) makes this a point in interviews and in his music. He has worked with many artists who were his musical heroes growing up, including E-40 (who he references in "Money Trees"), Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, The Game and, to crown good kid, m.A.A.d city, he got Jay-Z to feature on the remix of "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe".
Book Ends: Due to good kid, m.A.A.d city's Anachronic Order, "Compton" functions both as the opening and ending credits to the narrative.
A variant of the Sinner's Prayer opens the album proper, and is heard again with context before the penultimate song.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Happens three times on good kid: once when he refers to producer Hit-Boynote who'd never been heard of outside the industry until he worked with Kanye West in 2011 on "Backseat Freestyle", another when Keisha's sister refers to Section.80note Kendrick's 2011 mixtape/indie album, in which can be found "Keisha's Song" on "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst," and lastly when Just Blazenote producer most known for his work with Jay-Z inserts his name into "Compton," the one song on the album he produced.
Concept Album: good kid, m.A.A.d city is a somewhat fictionalized account of Kendrick's teenage years in Compton. After a night of robbery and drugs with friends, K.Dot (young Kendrick) heads to Sherane's house for sex. Upon arrival, two gangbangers outside her house beat K.Dot up as his gang affiliation (or lack thereof) is not welcome. K.Dot friends get word of what happen and decide to involve these two gang members in a drive-by shooting. This goes awry as K.Dot's friend Dave is shot and killed in the process. K.Dot reassess his life, allowing him to become the Kendrick Lamar we know today.
Deconstruction: Ultimately, GKMC is one for Gangsta Rap and the more unhealthy aspects of today's rap. There's nothing glamorous about the thug lifestyle, instead coming off as bloody and pathetic. Partying and excessive drinking is ultimately destructive and hollow. Even sex, represented through K.Dot hooking up with Sherane, leads to an STD and some very poor choices in the name of getting laid. K.Dot eventually is set straight but at a very high price.
Dream Team: Really, Kendrick and pretty much anyone, but some noteworthy ones include
Kendrick and Dr. Dre on "The Recipe" and "Compton"
Kendrick and Jay-Z on the "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" remix.
Kendrick and Lady Gaga on the original version of "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe".
Kendrick, Big K.R.I.T. and J Cole on DJ Khaled's "They Ready".
Motor Mouth: Seen in a lot of his songs, "Rigamortis" from Section.80 being a good example.
Also m.A.A.d city, which is full of motor-mouthed tongue-twisters.
Odd Friendship: With Lady Gaga, who appeared on the original version of "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" (the final version was just Kendrick) on good kid.
Oh Crap: "I'mma tell you where I'm from, OK? You gon' tell me where you from, OK? Or, or, where your grandma stay, where your momma stay, or where your daddy stay, OK? Matter fact, get out the van, homie. Get out the car before I snatch you out that motherfucker, homie."
When Kendrick meets Sherane, she's dancing to Ciara.
When Kendrick is driving to Sherane's house, he references Curtis Jackson.
In "The Art of Peer Pressure," Kendrick and his buddies are riding round listening to Young Jeezy (who featured on Kendrick's song "Westside, Right on Time", released as a non-album single just prior to the release of good kid).
"I fucked Sherane and went to tell my bros / then Usher Raymond 'Let it Burn' came on."
Just promise me you'll tell this story when you make it big And if I die before your album drop I hope — (gunshots)
Trailers Always Lie: The meaning of "Backstreet Freestyle" (a super arrogant and vulgar rap by a very ignorant young K.Dot whose yet to have his eyes truly opened to the consequences of the hedonist/thug lifestyle he follows) is essentially lost outside of the rest of the album. That didn't stop it from becoming a sequel where listeners would be prone to take its lyrics on its own merit without the context of later songs like "Money Trees" and "Real."
This Loser Is You: If you still want to live the gangsta lifestyle after listening to GKMC, you have some problems.
True Companions: Him and his Black Hippy clique, consisting of himself, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q. The four of them comprise probably the best young rap group out there right now.