Kendrick Have a Dream...
Every life has a story and every story has a beginning. Our early moments may not seem pivotal at the time, but that is purely due to the comfort of the immediate. The majority of our day to day falls under a blissful amnesia, because how else could we cope with the pain of life chipping away at our blocks? That's essentially what we are; cold unadulterated marble. Ain't that a bitch? You don't even get to choose your sculptor until your building blocks have already been partially beaten down. What I'm trying to say is, you could never fully appreciate a work of art without knowing at least a little backstory of the creator.
"good kid, m.A.A.d. city" is one of my favorite and most personally influential albums of all time. Not only is it masterfully produced and written, but it encompasses so much of what it means to be fucking alive. Kendrick offers up a time machine back to the years that made him who he is today.
Unwarranted pride, youthful ignorance, lust, love, peace, recklessness, jealousy, anger, sorrow, regret, fear, desperation...
"Backseat Freestyle" gives a glimpse into the peer pressured existence of a kid whom like anyone else, can only reflect what is already shining upon him. Kendrick was told to spit. What'd you want, Nas' "One Mic?" This is probably the most important track of the album and ironically enough, is structured to be the most stereotypically empty song - devoid of any blunt, cognitive statements. A beat and basic bullshit. That's the point though. The song is so story driven in that it completely sets the mood of a dangerous adolescent trip fueled by anxious bravado. It lays the foundation of where Kendrick isn't necessarily encountering his immediate future by happenstance, but actually creating it.
So K. Dot's in the backseat of a van heading toward Hell. He's called out to showcase his rap ability. He did what any kid would try to do to save face and say whatever trivial, basic ass shit comes to mind. He dug into his memory banks, where you can only really withdraw what's been put in. Money, ho's and power. That's the stereotype and the motive. Ironically delicious that Kendrick emphasizes the beginning and the end with dreams, referencing M.L.K.'s famous dream speech which then bleeds into Kendrick's dreams as well. Hindsight in life is always 20/20. Just as we can look back at our past decisions and shake our heads, this song alludes to Kendrick's desire to grow quickly and to reach for what he was hungry for. The problem is that we can picture the health, but not visualize the sustenance.
YAWK! YAWK! YAWK! YAWK!
Kendrick at this point witnessed events that shaped his existence. He wouldn't snitch. He's a story teller motivated by plot, not pleasantries.
Anyone that's had aspirations further than their soil knows that there will be resistance. "M.A.A.D. City" is my favorite track off this album. It's relentless and hard hitting pace first attracted me, but it wasn't until I cycled through it a few times that I realized the gravity of it. This song is the pivotal moment of where the album shifts. Everything before it was youthful; full of mischief and mistakes. Ignorantly filled with good intentions and unforeseen consequences. Chasing pussy à la Sherane. Envisioning the rap game rewards before putting in the work. Money. Careless bliss. Yeah. You fucked up thinking that rug you fantasized to be a tapestry wasn't going to be pulled out from under you.
The song starts off with a present day Kendrick commenting and reflecting on the situation back home. He notes that his perspective today wouldn't fly with the hood ideology of where he comes from. Not that it matters since the main representations of gang violence, the pirus and the crips, are too busy killing one another to pay any attention to the kid tapping on the snow globe that their microcosm exists in. In fact, the only real unified thing in Kendrick's city is the collective cannibalistic destruction that continues to be the end result from every facet of society.
You're then abducted by the beat. Thrown into a van, slapped in the face, told to shut the fuck up and witness a high speed tour of all things fucked up that Kendrick encountered - to the point where names are bleeped out to protect the guilty.
This tumultuous journey is the catalyst for a change in perspective for the rest of the album. The script gets flipped with a different beat at the 2:35 minute mark. MC Eiht enters the picture, paralleling Kendrick's adolescent nature with an unforgivingly aware O.G. It's really genius how Kendrick jumps back and forth between the past and present via perspective changes. He elaborates like he has in the past on his first marijuana experience being laced with PCP. MC Eiht gives an interlude soon after talking about it like it's an everyday thing. Because it is. So the fuck what? That's that O.G. mentality. It happens mother fucker, welcome to Compton. Yeah, you smoked some bad shit. The fuck you want?
Kendrick finishes with a common theme in a lot of his songs where he switches up his flow to a less emotional, more controlled and rapid pace done in a way to represent his conscious speaking. This is that out of body perspective where the knowledge and understanding of present day Kendrick shines. He alludes to the possible fact that young Kendrick, the Kendrick earlier in the album, might have gone further than toeing the line of ignorant adolescence and gang banging killer. Is there hope for the youth racing up and down the streets he once walked? Are they going to end up like him? Catch a murder case, or catch a bullet. They're lost in the same tall grass. Drowning in the same swimming pools. m.a.a.d. City.
The ego. Results in a 50/50 spread. Roses? Maybe rot.
Apples for Eve.
One of the top radio plays of the album.
I wonder what the majority of people felt when it blasted.
On their way to a session of debilitated gambling. The currency?
Their identity. The bookmaker?
Huh...find myself in that same familiar stance. A separated moment of ironic reflection. The face silhouette doesn't give much emotion, but I can take enough from it. Too much, maybe.
Bet a lot of people misappropriated these lyrical resources.
Torn a tapestry, unraveled to a thread.
Taken as a thread, woven into collect calls.
Collect calls yearn for Poetic Justice...
Pass out (Drank)
Jealousy is an ugly, unwarranted bitch that falls asleep at your doorstep; a victim of self infliction is the only honest way to describe the affected. Rugs. Sloshed with reckless abandonment for your conscious compass after drinking from that fucked up fountain of bullshit. Back to the tapestries:
"Black Boy Fly" is one of the few songs on the album I can only listen to sparingly. It's message strikes too deep into the heart of childhood fear and anxiety. Like, time is moving too quickly and you aren't where you thought you were. Even worse, you aren't where others thought you'd be - and ain't that a mind-fuck to think that we are more wrapped up in surrounding opinions than we are of what we know about ourselves?
This song isn't really about that noise though. This song is about the invisible dome that exists in the mind of a child over his city preventing him from making it out. Pick whatever flavor of manipulation, circumstance, or happenstance you want to explain how that dome was built, but regardless of anything - it's there.
This is modern day Kendrick; alive after being born in that dome, leaving that dome, and coming back to that dome. The song starts off with him being reluctant to acknowledge his achievements. He's being told he made it, but knows the mentality of those idolizing him since he's been in that position. He knows he's now become special, and in becoming special you in a weird way elongate the stairway to heaven for everyone else. You create another grandiose story that leaves people thinking that they can never do that, or that their window has already closed. Kendrick has now existed in two very different sides of a coin. The song then goes into a flashback of times where he was the person telling others that they made it - or rather, being envious of their come ups due to insecurities of where he was.
Arron Afflalo and The Game (Jayceon Taylor) are the unreachable pillars in this story. Fucked up, but they fit the stereotype of making it out of the ghetto. A basketball player and a rapper. This isn't the first time a rapper has acknowledged this, but the way Kendrick parallel's other existences with his is genius. And at the end of the day? He's just trying to acknowledge that where it seemed impossible that he could ever make it out, he did. The song name drops jealousy throughout each verse, but the root of the lyrics come from the fear of being passed over.
At this point of the album, Kendrick's lead us down multiple roads of fear in a storytelling fashion that fluctuates in pace about as much as bus stops and Ferraris. It's exciting, but every road inevitably comes to an end.
This song is written through three different phone calls between an incarcerated Dante, and Dante's mother. This is one of the few times in the album where Kendrick is echoing another story other than his. Dante went down the same road as Kendrick, except his ended locked up. Fear is again a focal point, but this is a fear that Kendrick narrowly dodged. Most likely sensitive to this story just like he was compelled to explain the root of his jealousy in "Black Boy Fly", Kendrick takes on the persona of the imprisoned individual trying desperately to reach out to anyone who cares. Unfortunately, bridges have already clearly been burned when even your mother isn't willing to help you out unless you change.
The perspective change throughout the song really captures a very personal feeling two-person encounter. The dialogue weaves in and out of conversations cut short and conversations that go unspoken. In a lot of ways, I feel that this is Kendrick grieving over what he feels he might have deserved, or dodged. Survivors guilt is what I think it's called. Or he is raising awareness to consequences. I don't know. The hook in a song sometimes says everything. Before we bullshit ourselves, we'll bullshit others. Vice versa. A cycle. Etc...
The King has arrived. You'd feel that way at least if you were working with your idols. Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre? Any of ya'll reading this already know what I'm talking about. For those that don't, I urge you to utilize Google and YouTube. Essentially, Kendrick was first inspired by an N.W.A. appearance at a swap meet. Point is, today he is arguably the biggest name in Hip-Hop. He's worked with and interviewed his idols. He's earned their respect. He's earned our respect. He'll most likely retire as the mayor of Compton after he brings a ridiculous amount of funding and attention to his infamous home town. Shit, at this point I'm out of words. I urge you to listen to this album if you haven't, because I haven't even begun to do this work of art justice.
Kendrick already dropped the mic'. I'm out. Enjoy.