Kendrick Lamar captured his realities as a 16-year-old in Compton, California and turned it into concept art on his major label debut, Good Kid, m.A.A.d City. Released five years ago this month, GKMC created waves that are still being felt. Only a few albums have ever really captured the realities of life in Black communities so vividly. There are even fewer albums that are as great conceptually.
The coming-of-age narrative of GKMC follows Kendrick through a life-changing day in the city of Compton with his friends. Over the course of this one day he falls in love, takes his mama’s van, has a shootout in which he loses a friend, and smokes weed for the first (and last?) time. This may sound like the premise to the next Menace II Society movie or any hood classic from the early 90’s. But what separates Good Kid, m.A.A.d City from other stories about “life in the hood” is the way that K. Dot made it his own. Writing his raps around real experiences, and even having his parents do a few of the interludes, made it truly his. It doesn’t sound like anybody else’s story: it’s really really real.
Not only is GKMC a great concept album on its own, but the story also ties in to his other projects, like Section.80 speaking to and about his generation, the 80’s babies. Then To Pimp A Butterfly continues where GKMC heat “Compton” (feat. Dr. Dre) left off, hearing Kendrick deal with being famous and having money. It makes sense that the Dr. himself would drop a word of advice on “Wesley’s Theory”, the first track of TPAB.
Good Kid, m.A.A.d City set precedents and standards for how great albums could sound and how they should be developed and executed. GKMC is the game changer that pushed hip-hop to evolve in our generation…and cemented Kendrick as the catalyst of that evolution.