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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews

9.6

Kendrick Lamar
good kid, m.A.A.d. city

You've probably only ever watched The Usual Suspects once, as going through the motions repeatedly with that particular film is a relatively pointless exercise once you're aware of the outcome — Kevin Spacey doesn't really have a limp, he's just a fella that wants to dig out beefy ladies that resemble orca whales. Kendrick Lamar's articulate storytelling persona is equally flawed, weakened on repeat listens by the fact you're already well-aware of the inevitable last minute twist in his day-in-a-life tales.

That just leaves us with Big-Kenny-L the igno-rant yolo enthusiast, the dominate aspect of his two-sided persona pursued this time around. This is Lamar the free-spirited party creature, day-dreaming under money trees, longing for the day scientists invent penis pumps with enough hydroponic strength to inflate Little KenDick to a size capable of pleasuring the entire planet. This is an album loaded with lyrics about late-night heists, smoking out, drinking in and treating women as holes instead of goals.

Oh, so it's just another bloody rap album?

No.

This is pure hip-hop satire. Siding more with clever dissection of the genre — both past and present — than pants-so-low-they're-being-pulled-down piss take, good kid, m.A.A.d. city takes a unique perspective, holding a mirror up to the often laughable cliches of rap music. Pro binge-drinking anthems are parodied with encouragements to dive head first into oceans of gin and juice, wannabe gangsta youths openly confess their impressionable nature as they perform ritualistic smash-n-grab robberies soundtracked by "Yeezy's first record" and even the genre's obsession with posthumous praise is trivialised. Amidst all these topical stances, there's a consistent narrative involving a borrowed car, a concerned mother and a Dad who's "on one" and lost his bloody dominos. Again.

And then there's Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe, a brilliant pop song in it's own right, but even more significant given it's timeline, which saw it transform from a hyped track with a Lady Gaga hook to an indirect diss squarely aimed at the pop transvestite's ridiculously lavish lifestyle, as well as pop music's money-over-soul transparency. Here Kendrick mocks the shiny suits and their accompanying diamond-encrusted cups, an ideology that's dominated popular music and what has been instated as the accepted measure of success since before we were all born. Highlighting the ridiculousness of this age-old lust for fake materialism, Kenny also ironically partners this hard line stance with a catchy pop hook, before dragging it all into a darker, self-deprecating confessional booth.

The other clear highlight, at least from a traditional pop perspective, is Swimming Pools (Drank), which shifts between two contrasting polars — the dark abysses of alcoholism and the glorification of the age-old "we gonna buy out the whole bar" flamboyancy. Kenny even channels a DMX-esque "Damian" character (with about 80% less coke-induced religious babble) to simulate the internal moral struggle. Swimming Pools encapsulates a lot of what is so brilliant about the album, with Lamar frequently taking a worn-out hip-hop cliche and inflating it to a larger social and cultural significance, before personalising the topic with his own narratives.

Years could be spent drowning amidst all these inthralling footnotes, dissecting and over-interpreting every minuscule detail of this fantastic record. This is truly a hip-hop fan's treasure chest of hologram easter eggs and unrelated Tupac Shakur conspiracy theories. Yet this ultra-meta commentary is only as good as the music that backs it up and the record's overall enjoyment is obviously supported significantly by the consistently nun-cunt-tightness of the production, Kendrick's replay-ability as a tongue-tied lyricist and the noticeable lust for artistic diversity.

But the overarching success (and irony) of good kid, m.A.A.d. city and it's reflective analysis of hip-hop is that there's a strong chance it's intended audience is blissfully unaware of the underlying parody. This is a packaged version of everything that's good, bad and downright embarrassing about rap music, dragged away from it's comfortable and confined environment and re-contextualising in a stark honest light where the playfulness of the worn-out subject matters are served alongside the sharp bite of reality. And whether or not this is an accidental stumble or a conscious decision hardly seems relevant.

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Kendrick Lamar

 

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