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CD review: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’

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Shea Serrano

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Kendrick Lamar
good kid, m.A.A.d city
Four and a half stars

Here’s a ridiculous sentence to type: Kendrick Lamar, LA’s clear-eyed rap menace and burgeoning superstar, is supposed to be the city’s next Tupac, a powerhouse force that will bring hyper-prestige back to what was, at one point, the most important spot in the entire universe for rap music. Here’s maybe an even more ridiculous one: He’s off to a good start.

On good kid, m.A.A.d city, his first proper album, which unrolls itself into an audio autobiography of growing up in his city, Lamar turns in a radiant performance. On the spacey “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” he auspiciously croaks, “I can feel your energy from two planets away.” On the milky “Poetic Justice,” he teams with the genre-bending Drake over a lilac Janet Jackson sample. On “Backstreet Freestyle,” he pulls the legs off a monster Hitboy beat. Song after song, time after time, Lamar offers either trenchant storytelling or engaging atmospherics or both.

In totality, he is aggressive and nihilistic and unfiltered enough to appear an evolution of gangster rap’s demigods, but self-aware enough and just weird enough to avoid being considered a derivative of them. All eyes are on him, with good reason, it seems.

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