With the West Coast on his back and co-signs from everyone from Dr. Dre to Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar drops his highly-anticipated debut good kid, m.A.A.d city. Hailed by Dre and Snoop Dogg as the “new king of the West Coast,” the 25-year-old MC paints a vivid portrait of growing up in Compton on the 12 tracks, which feature appearances from Dre, Drake, and Jay Rock, plus production by Pharrell, Hit-Boy, Tha Bizness, Just Blaze, and T-Minus. Did Kendrick live up to the great expectations? Find out below.
Rolling Stone: The plush production of tracks like the Neptunes-produced centerpiece “good kid” hearkens back to Seventies blaxploitation soundtracks and Nineties gangsta-rap blaxploitation revivals, and good kid warrants a place in that storied lineage. 4/5
USA Today: But there’s a sophistication in his cool, taut delivery and deftly syncopated, soulfully textured arrangements, which make his blunt accounts as seductive as they are sobering. 3.5/4
The Washington Post: A collaboration with MC Eiht, “m.A.A.d. City” bridges the gap between old-school and new-school L.A. rap—something Lamar excels at—starting with a frantic beat that transitions into G-funk. It’s a perfect coronation for the new “King of California,” (Dr. Dre’s words), as well as a shining example of Lamar’s hyper-introspective style of SoCal hip-hop.
Pitchfork: The miracle of this album is how it ties straightforward rap thrills—dazzling lyrical virtuosity, slick quotables, pulverizing beats, star turns from guest rappers—directly to its narrative. 9.5/10
The Boston Globe: The centerpiece is the 12-minute meditation on mortality and legacy, “Sing About Me/I’m Dying of Thirst,” which transcends mainstream hip-hop. A triumph.
Chicago Tribune: Even when Kendrick boasts, he sounds like he’s winking at the listener. On “Backstreet Freestyle” he conflates his preacher “Martin-had-a-dream” voice with his own ridiculously outsized dreams, as bawdy as he wants to be. 3.5/4
The Associated Press: Kendrick Lamar is an up-and-coming rapper hailing from Los Angeles with a reputation already built through the underground scene as one of hip-hop’s best lyricists. With the backing of Dr. Dre, the socially conscious emcee continues to enhance that stature on good kid, m.A.A.d city, a cohesive album filled with classic gems.
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Backseat Freestyle,” “Poetic Justice,” “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”