-- Kendrick Lamar, "good kid, m.A.A.d city" (Interscope Records)
Kendrick Lamar is an up-and-coming rapper hailing from Los Angeles with a reputation already built through the underground scene as one of hip-hop's best lyricists.
With the backing of Dr. Dre, the socially conscious emcee continues to enhance that stature on "good kid, m.A.A.d city," a cohesive album filled with classic gems. He takes his storytelling ability to a higher level on his major label debut, a follow-up to his 2011 independent release, "Section.80," that received positive reviews.
On his new offering, Lamar's rap cadences are finely in sync with the stellar production by Pharrell, Tha Bizness, Hit-Boy, Just Blaze and others. The album is an open book of soulful stories that are intertwined through entertaining and thought-provoking skits, with Lamar telling several compelling moments of his upbringing in Compton, the gritty city southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Lamar recalls when he was engulfed in a persuasive environment, running the streets with disobedient friends on "The Art of Peer Pressure." That song seamlessly connects with "Money Trees," where 25-year-old Lamar and guest Jay Rock eloquently rap in detail about a young man's mentality to commit home invasions with the hope of becoming a rap star.
"Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst," which is 12 minutes long, is a combination of two songs that brilliantly tells three different emotional stories. Lamar is also strong on songs like "Real," "(Expletive), Don't Kill My Vibe," "Swimming Pools (Drank)" and the Drake-assisted "Poetic Justice," which samples Janet Jackson's "Any Time, Any Place."
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: On the bonus track, "Black Boy Fly," Lamar pays homage to NBA player Arron Afflalo and rapper The Game, recognizing them for successfully breaking out of Compton.