Kendrick Lamar and the Coming-Of-Age Rap Classic

Kendrick Lamar and the Coming-Of-Age Rap Classic

Published Sun, October 23, 2022 at 12:00 PM EDT

It’s been 10 years since Kendrick Lamar dropped his classic album GOOD KID, M.A.A.D CITY, his second album after dropping his debut SECTION.80, and his first release on a major label.

good kid... is regarded as one of the best storytelling Hip-Hop albums of all time; with songs like “Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter” and “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst,” it gave the album a perfectly straight sequence to tell a story about a young kid from Compton surviving the ills of the hood. 

A young kid who sees all the pitfalls around him, whether it be sex, gangs, drugs, jail, or death, finds a way to avoid all of that and not let it consume them; that is a theme that’s familiar in Hip-Hop. When you talk about albums that fit those themes, you’re talking about classics that came before good kid... Albums like Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor by Lupe Fiasco and Illmatic by Nas follow that path. With his 1994 debut album Illmatic, Nas was a kid who was affiliated with people who were in the streets and took part in some street activities but for the most part was considered a good kid (or at least not a bad kid) in Queensbridge. More than a decade later, on ...Food & Liquor, Lupe Fiasco was the good kid who did martial arts and skateboarded while navigating the troubles of growing up in the west side of Chicago. 

These albums spoke specifically to kids like me who fell into that category. Growing up watching friends and acquaintances of mine fall into those traps was tough; seeing your friends fall off, one by one, while you’re the kid who stays on the "straight and narrow" makes you feel alone. It’s like watching a crime or horror movie where you know who the victims are and what consequences are coming for them. Adding in the elements of crime and police harassing/killing young Black kids like myself at the time can be a lot, and to help deal with those times in my life, I listened to those albums. Illmatic and ...Food & Liquor helped me cope with the fact that although a lot of friends may fall out of the picture, and all the other troubles are going on around me, I’m ok just being me and not following down that road. 

In my 20s, good Kid, m.A.A.d city came out and those feelings I had about Illmatic and Food & Liquor are pretty similar to that of K. Dot's 2012 masterpiece. I heard the song “good kid” where Kendrick says:

But what am I ‘posed to do when the blinkin’ of red or blue flash from the top of your roof and your dog has to say woof and you ask ‘lift up your shirt.’ Because you wonder if a tattoo of affiliation can make it a pleasure to put me through gang files, but that don’t matter because the matter is racial profile I heard ‘em chatter: ‘He’s prob’ly young, but I know that he’s down, step on you neck as hard as your bullet-proof vest he don’t mind, he know we’ll never respect the good kid, m.A.A.d city.”

It touched me in a real way because of my interactions with police growing up. Sometimes those interactions brought about a nervousness because I knew I was being racially profiled, but I also wondered if they were going to hurt me.

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Even songs like “Real” where he raps:

You love fast cars and dead presidents old. You love fast women, you love keepin’ control. Of everything that you love, you love beef. You love streets, you love running, ducking police. You love your hood, might even love it death, but what love got to do with it when you don’t love yourself?”

That hit me at my core. There’s number of people I grew up with that loved being street and loved their own hood more than they loved themselves. A sad reality to see but what can you say to someone when that’s what their environment taught them to understand. 

Kendrick perfectly brought that perspective to the light, and it led him to a successful sophomore album. An album that sold over 3 million copies and bolted him into superstardom. At a time when Hip-Hop was straying away from street conscious rap, Kendrick Lamar gave Hip-Hop an album that filled that void. At that time, Hip-Hop was being run by young guns like Drake, J. Cole, Future, Kid Cudi and Wale. Kendrick was right there with that pack, but gleamingly stood out after good kid, m.A.A.d city dropped. It’s an album that will forever touch the hearts and minds of Hip-Hop heads like myself.

It’s the last Hip-Hop album that reached me in a deep place.

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