“I used to jealous of Jayceon
I used to jealous of Jayceon, Taylor when I was young
Taylor made a career out of music from writin songs
A Buick had driven past, bumpin him when I mowed the lawn
Money launderin hustlin, homies ponderin up against
schemes to make a million even if doin you harm
War’s the case and just in case you wasn’t alarmed
The city had fought with firearms and many had died before dawn
It’s 2004 and I’m hearing the people roar
For the name of The Game they line in front of the store”

The good news for Kendrick Lamar is that he doesn’t need to be jealous of anybody any more. At 25 he’s fully arrived on the scene, flanked by his Black Hippy homies Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q. The only jealousy he has to worry about now is if they become envious of HIS success, because “Section.80” propelled him from “regional artist with a strong mixtape following” to “major label artist signed by Dr. Dre to Aftermath.” Not only does that give Lamar distribution in every retail and digital outlet in North America, it gives Lamar the chance to work with Andre Young himself, who made two cameo appearances on his new album “good kid, m.A.A.d city” as well as giving it his seal of approval with an executive producer credit. For a young man from Compton who grew up idolizing Dre, it must feel like hitting the lottery. Maybe that’s why he can afford a swimming pool full of liquor.

“Some people like the way it feels, some people wanna kill their sorrows
Some people wanna fit in with the popular, that was my problem
I was in a dark room, loud tunes, lookin to make a vow soon
that I’ma get fucked up, fillin up my cup, I see the crowd move
Changin by the minute, and the record on repeat
Took a sip, then another sip, then somebody said to me
Nigga, why you babysittin only two or three shots?
I’ma show you how to turn it up a notch
First you get a swimmin pool full of liquor, then you DIIIVE in it
Pool full of liquor, then you DIIIVE in it”

The instrumental behind “Swimming Pools (Drank)” is one of the most hypnotic of 2012, which means T-Minus and Nikhil S. have handed crossover success to Mr. Lamar on a silver platter. Drinking songs tend to go down easy with the public anyway, pun intended, but even with the party vibe of the mellow song there’s a surprising undercurrent of awareness about alcohol’s negative side effects. It would be easy to get caught up in the sing-along chorus and miss it, but his opening verse talks about being influenced by peer pressure to abuse alcohol and his second verse refers to it as “poison.” This song is a certified hit, but it’s not a simpleminded one, which is what makes Kendrick Lamar such an appealing artist right now. He may be young and he may like to have fun, but he’s also gotten depths of thoughtfulness that you don’t have to dig deep for before they shine.

“Every time I write these words they become a taboo
Making sure my punctuation curve, every letter is true
Livig my life in the margin, and that metaphor was proof
I’m talking poetic justice, poetic justice
If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room, would you trust it?
I mean you need to hear this – love is not just a verb
It’s you looking in the mirror
Love is not just a verb, it’s you lookin bored maybe
Call me crazy, we can both be insane
A fatal attraction is common, and what we have common is pain
I mean you need to hear this, love is not just a verb”

It’s certainly not when Lamar raps “Poetic Justice,” a song carefully crafted by Scoop DeVille to match up with “Any Time, Any Place” by Janet Jackson. It’s a flower growing in the dark room of Compton, but Lamar also shows that sun doesn’t always shine on the two part opus “good kid” and “m.A.A.d city,” the latter featuring another of the legends of Compton – MC Eiht. Geah. Other cameos on this CD include Drake on the aforementioned “Poetic Justice,” Jay Rock on “Money Trees,” and Mary J. Blige on “Now or Never.” The album strikes a good balance between making sure Lamar is the spotlight star, and showing that he is at the level of the stars who do cameo – they don’t steal his shine. In fact after listening to “The Recipe” you wind up wanting Kendrick and Dre to form a new 2012 N.W.A.

Right now it’s easy for people to be suspicious of Kendrick Lamar. A lot of people didn’t follow his rise from internet mixtape star to XXL certified to Dr. Dre protege, so “good kid” seems to have come virtually out of nowhere. The truth is that Lamar’s success has been built of progressively over time, and he’s earned it every step of the way. Lamar has not sold out his Black Hippy vision to become a success, he’s stuck to his guns and the Black Hippy vibe is going global because it’s the new sound of hip-hop for 2012. Much like his fellow Californians from Odd Future, Lamar built up his following independently and what started as a small movement has now become part of mainstream music and culture. If this is your late pass, it’s not too late to get schooled by the “good kid” – you’ll still get an A and so will he.

Kendrick Lamar :: good kid, m.A.A.d city
8Overall Score