It’s quite simple: it is when an artist, usually someone with commercial success, gives a different artist, usually someone with lower success, a shout-out by acknowledging that they like his/her music. Co-signs can also be when those successful artists allow up-and-coming artists to be featured on their songs. Co-signs truly fuel why every artist is commercially popular today. Every hip-hop artist at one point in their career was given a co-sign; and because of that co-sign, this was the main reason why they were able to achieve mainstream success. Every artist dreams to receive some kind of co-sign from another artist. Without co-signs, artist diversity in hip-hop would be very shallow. Artists such as Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore and Chance the Rapper all received co-signs. So, who co-signed them?
Many music listeners are getting tired of typical mainstream artists these days: artists who aren’t very skilled, but broke into the mainstream for their radio friendly or club material music. Artists such as Tyga, Flo Rida, and even the lackluster Big Sean come to mind. Everyone can rap but what makes you stand out? Is it your look? Persona? Swag? In some cases, it is! Ask 2 Chainz, because his music and material isn’t different but his whole persona and his name alone are reasons why he’s different. Nonetheless, artists such as 2 Chainz are more of fads and do not have longevity in their music careers. This is mainly because his music is cool and funny now, but after a while, people will start to get annoyed from it. For instance, look where Soulja Boy’s career went.. Yeah I cant find it either. The only way to create longevity in a mainstream artist’s career is to have a signature, creative sound; an artist’s rapping delivery and beat selection are major contributions to their sound. Hip-hop has been going through an experimental movement, where many of the most popular hip-hop artists don’t necessarily have that ‘traditional’ hip hop sound. This kind of sound refers to the sound where hip-hop originated from. A traditional hip-hop sound has a very jazzy and R&B sample influence feel with insightful lyrics. A great example of an album that follows this sound would be Kanye West’s College Dropout. However, artists such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and Chance The Rapper are a few examples of where hip-hop as a collaborative sound in the mainstream is headed towards.
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
Like the rest of the world, Bonus Cut has caught Game of Thrones (which I will affectionately refer to as GoT from here on out) fever. We can’t get enough of it, and not only because it’s an awesome show, but because it reminds us of the hip-hop scene in which artists battle to sit atop hip-hop’s subjective, imaginary “Iron Throne”. Instead of using catapults and swords however, artists use lyrical jabs, metaphors and wordplay in order to kill the opposition.
So here at Bonus Cut, we decided to play make-believe for a little bit (bear with us here): In our imaginary world where one doesn’t have to wait seven days in between each GoT episode, every actor who plays a character in GoT became deathly ill and couldn’t finish filming the series. Naturally, HBO hired Bonus Cut to recast the show with one condition: each character must be a rapper. So we did our job, and it turned out beautifully.
Sidenote: I would like to personally apologize beforehand for not casting anyone as Tyrion Lannister, I just don’t think anyone’s that perfect. Sorry
Lil Wayne as Aerys II Targaryen (The Mad King)
Like Aerys II Targaryen, Lil Wayne sat on the throne. After Tha Carter II up until Tha Carter III, Weezy spewed out mixtape after mixtape of pure brilliance. His spot atop the throne was damn near undisputed and the hype around the release of The Carter III was unprecedented, and it lived up to the hype. Afterwards, however, nothing was the same. Even though his albums have sold, he has never gotten back to the pre-Carter III level. Also, instead of mumbling about burning people, Wayne can’t get off the topic of eating pussy. There are many theories as to what happened (I would suggest reading Amos Barshad’s article), but one thing is for sure: Lil Wayne is not the same rapper he once was. He hasn’t quite died off yet, as there were glimpses of hope on I Am Not a Human Being II, but hip-hop’s Mad King is not in good shape.
Kanye West as King Joffrey Baratheon
Abrasive, narcissistic, arrogant. All three of these words can describe King Joffrey. All three of these words can describe Kanye West. Kanye, like Joffrey, finds a way to piss everyone (and I mean everyone) off at one point or another. From “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” to “Yo, Taylor I’m really happy for you. I’m gonna let you finish, but…” Kanye has never been afraid to let people know what’s on his mind. He even dissed his mentor and tutor, Jay-Z, recently at a concert for going on tour with Justin Timberlake. However, each and every one of his albums has been an instant classic, and everything he does, from Kim to his clothing, impacts the rap game in one way or another. So no matter how much you hate him, he’s still the king. The same goes for King Joffrey, who has been loathed since episode two when he gets Sansa’s direwolf executed. He personally gives me the urge to throw my remote at the TV whenever he appears, but he’s still the king.
50 Cent as Ned Stark
Ned Stark is one of the more respectable characters in GoT. He is a good father who is also a role model for his kids. 50 Cent is respected in the same way, a hip-hop artist and business man who started from nothing and rose to the top of the rap game in the early 2000’s. Like Ned Stark, whose presence still lingers in GoT, many of today’s hip-hop artists try to imitate Fitty’s mixture of gangster rap and club bangers to achieve success. Also, when Ned Stark stood up to King Joffrey, his head got chopped off. When 50 Cent stood up to Kanye his music career’s metaphorical head got chopped off. Wait, I casted King Joffrey as Kanye West? Wow, I see what I did there…
A$AP Rocky as Robb Stark
Both of these characters are young, handsome and fashionable upstarts from the North looking to take the Throne by any means necessary. Robb Stark had to find his own way, learning to be a leader on the job without his father’s guidance. A$AP Rocky took a similar path, as he took the world by storm with his unique, geography-blurring voice on his successful Live. Love. A$AP mixtape. Going from nothing to something from a matter of months (and receiving a multi-million dollar record deal) would seem to pose problems for most, but A$AP and the rest of his crew have played their cards right so far, not unlike Robb Stark up until last episode. Here’s to hoping they don’t suffer the same fate, as A$AP seems like he has a lot more left in the tank. *Muffled cries from the realization that Robb will never behead Joffrey and take the throne with Talisa at his side*
Jay Z as Tywin Lannister
Tywin might not be the official King of the realm, but his influence and wealth forces everyone to respect him as such. Every move that he makes is a power move, from the strategic positioning of his troops to the puzzle-piece marriages of his sons and daughters. He instills fear into those around him because of what he might do if they start actin’ up. From head to toe, Tywin is a straight boss. The same can be said about Jay-Z, who has parlayed his success as a rapper into becoming something more: an icon. From meetings with the president to trying his hand as a sports agent, Jay-Z is never satisfied and always looking for ways to expand his empire and increase his stranglehold atop the game.
Kendrick Lamar as Daenerys Targaryen
Readers, I hope you can get over the fact that Kendrick’s a male and Daenerys is a female. Daenerys is one of the most lovable and powerful characters on the show. Kendrick Lamar is one of the most lovable and powerful hip-hop artists on the planet right now. What’s not to love about a throwback artist who tells it like it is? Truthfully, Kendrick is the last of a dying breed. His ability to spit fire is remarkably similar to Daenerys’ dragons, and his last two releases, Section.80 and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City were timeless classics. We’re waiting for Daenerys’ dragons to grow, and we’re waiting for Kendrick’s next album (which will surely be another classic). For both, it only seems like a matter of time before they’re both sitting on their Iron Throne.
Dr. Dre as Jorah Mormont
It’s been a while since Dr. Dre released any music. However, he’s still omnipresent in hip-hop culture today. Whether it be his Beats, which are commonplace in the wardrobes of athletes and hip-hop artists, or his Aftermath records, which has signed many great artists, Dre finds a way to impact the game without a significant release in the last decade. His role within hip-hop culture is similar to that of Jorah Mormont’s in GoT. Jorah has been there and done that. A knight and former advisor to Robert Baratheon, Jorah (Dre) uses his wisdom and experience in order to help Daenerys (Kendrick) in her quest to bring the Targaryen house back into power. Wait… that worked out perfectly!
Chief Keef as Hodor
Honestly, Hodor should be insulted I’m stooping him to Chief Keef’s level. However, Chief Keef’s inability to come up with anything remotely close to an intelligent thought at any point in his life is comparable to Hodor. Here’s how I (and you should) feel after listening to his music:
He constantly brags about gang violence. He laughed when his rival Lil Jojo was murdered in a gang affiliated shooting. He was arrested for shooting at a cop. He posted a picture of himself getting a blowjob on Instagram. Sosa makes stupid mistake after stupid mistake. Hopefully he turns out like Gucci Mane, who overstayed his 15 minutes of fame (we were laughing at you Gucci, not with you) and eventually faded away due to his constant run-ins with the law. Or maybe we can find a warg that gets into his mind and puts him to sleep. Sosa, just shut your mouth and say “Hodor”. The world will be a better place.
Drake as Jamie Lannister
The pretty boys of their respective realms, both of these guys are the targets of macho men. What else would expect when you’re suave, handsome and “25 sittin’ on 25 mill?” Jamie Lannister gets yelled at Brienne of Tarth for crying when his arm gets cut off, Aubrey gets flack because he doesn’t fit the mold of your typical “gangster rapper”. Jamie’s known as the Kingslayer, Drake has overshadowed his fellow labelmate and the Mad King of the hip-hop realm for the past couple years. Both guys come from privelage. You get the point.
Rick Ross as Robert Baratheon
Honestly, these two just look the same. Both are big and fat and have beards, but other than that they have nothing in common. The only thing Officer Ricky has been a king of is your local shopping mall’s food court. Moving on…
Lil B Fans as the Unsullied
Have you read the YouTube comments for Lil B’s videos? He has a cult following that is unmatched in today’s hip-hop world. Sure, Unsullied didn’t flinch when Kraznys cut off his nipple, but there’s no doubt in my mind that some Lil B fans would do the same (or worse) for the Based God. Seriously.
House Targaryen—80’s and 90’s Rappers
Throughout GoT, we hear stories of the Targaryens, who ruled the realm long ago and kept powerful dragons as pets. Throughout my generation’s lifetime, we have heard stories of powerful rappers of the 80’s and 90’s that could spit fire themselves. Both of these groups were extremely powerful and influential, and as time goes on their legend only grows larger and larger. Both of these are a endangered species, as more and more Gucci Manes and Waka Flockas pop up daily while Kendrick Lamar’s and ScHoolboy Q’s are few and far between.
Local, Independent and Underground Hip Hop artists as the Brotherhood without Banners
The Brotherhood without Banners mission is to protect the innocent and vulnerable from being victimized by the major houses. For all the glitz and glammer that the Lannister’s possess, there is ten times as much poverty and hunger in the streets. Underground hip-hop artists serve a similar purpose within the culture: when mainstream artists are too much to handle, they give hip-hop heads legitimate, quality music to listen to. For every ignorant Chief Keef or 2 Chainz song on the radio, there is an equal and opposite Immortal Technique or Joey Bada$$ joint. Both are the unsung heroes of their respective worlds, giving us reprieve from the powers that be.
House Lannister—G.O.O.D. Music
The undisputed kings of the rap game right now, even with the recent departure of Kid Cudi. Kanye West leads this all-star cast that is deep with notable names, such as Big Sean, Common, Pusha T and Q-Tip. Cruel Summer was one of the most hyped releases of last summer, and Yeezus is going be that big, if not bigger this summer. Many have challenged GOOD, but they weren’t good enough. The Lannisters can relate, as time after time they deny lower houses who try to take their title as the top house in the Realm. Nobody’s messin with either of these cliques.
Young Money as the House Reyne
Remember when Margaery tried to butter up Cersei and Cersei bitched her out?
That house she threatened to turn the Tyrells into was the House Reyne. They tried steppin’ to the Lannisters and got massacred. The same happened to Young Money when they went toe to toe with G.O.O.D. Music. At first it seemed like a competition, but then Wayne fell off and they started getting desperate. Things are not looking good for Young Money, who are pretty much left with: Drake (very respectable artist, arguably one of the top), a Lil Wayne that is a shell of his former self and Nicki Minaj. Nope, that’s not enough to take down G.O.O.D.
House Tyrell—Maybach Music Group
Both the Tyrell’s and Maybach Music Group are carefully crafting their way to the top of their respective games. The Tyrells did so by playing their cards right through marriage. Maybach Music Group has used key signings (such as Wale, Meek Mill and French Montana) while simultaneously releasing very successful mixtapes/albums (Ambition, Dreams and Nightmares and Teflon Don to name a few) to elevate their status. Soon they might have enough to challenge G.O.O.D. Music, but it will probably take a couple more quality artists and releases before it’s possible. Maybe they need to get an awesome mother figure like Olenna Tyrell. She’s the perfect grandmother.
And that concludes the Bonus Cut Game of Thrones casting call. Do you agree with this? Disagree? Comments? Questions? Concerns? Let us know below!
First I want to say, and this is important, that I am in no way bashing your opinion. Furthermore, I’m not bashing your writing, because if there’s one thing that’s evident when reading this (besides the many fallacies against hip-hop), it’s that you’re a confident and well-rounded writer. The imagery and detail contained within the confines of this piece run rampant and if I wasn’t such a concerned fan of hip-hop, I would think this article is perfect. Hell, this might be one incredible joke from the mind of a schemester with ambitions to write for The Onion and if it is the joke is on me. But it’s not, and that’s what I’m trying to get to.
I think as a writer and critic it’s also important for me to say that my aim with this letter isn’t to bash something I simply disagree with. If that were the case, I’d be writing letters like this nonstop to the many atrocious articles I read everyday. Furthermore, you must realize that this right here is all in the art of hip-hop; you had some things to say, and now I have something to say in return.
All that aside, this is why I feel the need to formulate a rebuttal.
Throughout this article you stake claims about these five artists and how their transformative minds and music have helped/been helped by the ever-changing flow of hip-hop as we know it today. For example, you state: rap artist “Future is a creature of modern rap” and that he “is a connective tissue”; Drake is “less interested in rap as a culture”; and something about Pusha-T and “collaborative arts that define modern hip-hop.” In these statements, along with many more spewed across this piece, I can’t help but notice how (to be completely honest) ignorant you are to what hip-hop and rap really is.
Let’s tackle the three statements I listed above just so you know what I’m talking about.
Regarding the rapper Future and your write-up on his upcoming Future Hendrix album you go off saying:
“Future is a creature of modern rap, a direct descendant of the genre’s new electronic bias. His latest single, “Karate Chop,” is a kind of sonic-melding blur of synths, bass thumps, and vocal jabs—a voice manipulation experiment. Future’s music can come off as almost comical, a prank on the lyric and rhythmic ambition of a previous rap generation that refuses to see a rapper for anything other than what he or she really is.”
The first thing I want to ask you is “what is modern rap?” Is modern rap defined by the overcrowding of familiar bass drops? Is modern rap where beats simply mirror each other with Fruity Loop-like cheesy synths that sound intricate to the dumb-downed listener? Is modern rap to you what mainstream rap is to people like me? It must be. See, the reason why I’m calling you out on this is that modern rap is such a broad term, it’s a crime to limit it to mainstream rap like you do here. If modern rap were limited to the mainstream radio waves like you say, we’d have no Prodigy, Action Bronson, Flatbush Zombies, Angel Haze, Big K.R.I.T., MC Invincible, Binary Star, Blat! PACK, Danny Brown, Dice Raw, well, you get my point. See, when you say “modern rap” and then simply talk about mainstream artists, it not only makes you look bad, but it makes everyone else involved in hip-hop look bad as well.
Also, you talk about Future’s “Karate Chop,” the same “Karate Chop” that features Lil Wayne saying, “beat that pussy like Emmett Till.” Is that modern hip-hop?
Moving on, you have the nerve to put this down:
“Future’s music can come off as almost comical, a prank on the lyric and rhythmic ambition of a previous rap generation that refuses to see a rapper for anything other than what he or she really is.”
What’s ironic about this statement is that you talk about Future’s music coming off as comical when really this sentence as a whole is comedic in its own right. When you talk about Future’s music as “a prank on the lyric and rhythmic ambition of a previous rap generation that refuses to see a rapper for anything other than what he or she really is,” you point out that the past generations of hip-hop only saw MCs for what they were with the messages they shared and nothing more. Engraining this into the mind of your readers as if this is fact, you have totally missed the point and come off as someone trying to know what he’s talking about when really you don’t know anything about the subject matter whatsoever. When you think of names like Slim Shady, Nasty Nas and Dr. Octagon what do you think of? Those my friend, are alter egos in hip-hop, or in broader terms, characters made up by MCs to portray a different type of message; a message that not only is the complete opposite of what “he or she really is” but a message to distort an image and/or completely profile a new one. Furthermore, these are alter egos that all originated in what you call “the previous rap generation.”
To make your argument even more invalid, what about all of the MCs of this “previous rap generation” who claim to be “making devils cower to the Caucus Mountains?” Do you really think U-God made the devil cower? If anything, the analogies, metaphors, similes and philosophies of rappers in ALL generations are taken from what they REALLY AREN’T. U-God can’t make devils cower, Das EFX didn’t catch a Snuffleupagus and Tupac never personally “talked” to Lady Liberty. So I must ask, what do you really mean when you say “refuses to see a rapper for anything other than what he or she really is?”
The next statement I chose to feature is this:
“Drake is less interested in rap as a culture.”
How can you even bring this into this discussion? Have you talked to Drake personally about his ambitions in the scene? How is his shadowy minimalistic (which I dig) Take Care not a direct child of culture? Why do you make such a statement and not back it up with fact? Give me more dude, give me more.
Also, rap isn’t a culture. Rap is spoken word or chanted rhyme, but it is not a culture, hip-hop is. I wouldn’t grill you on this so much, but for someone who puts so many claims into this article I feel like I should mention it. To quote the legend KRS-One: “hip-hop is something you live, rap is something you do.”
The third statement from your article I chose to personally portray is this:
“My Name is My Name will present the new, fully formed Push, the one who plays sidekick to Kanye on the G.O.O.D. Music label while dabbling in the collaborative arts that define modern hip-hop.”
And how exactly does “dabbling in the collaborative arts” define modern hip-hop? Are you trying to say that modern hip-hop is defined by artists working together? Are you claiming that more artists work together now than in the past? Again, what’s modern hip-hop?
I ask this because here’s the God honest truth: hip-hop has ALWAYS been collaborative. The very roots of hip-hop are made through collaboration. From the beginnings in New York City in the 70s, people and groups came together in, ahem, collaboration to share their common resistance against violence, poverty and the oppression thrown at their culture from outside forces. In fact, the tiers of hip-hop (rap, breaking, graffiti and turntablism) are all rooted together in collaboration to form the culture itself.
To further back this is the fact that rap from the very get go is collaborative. The MCs work with a producer or producers. The producers work with executive producers and mixers. Groups like Gang Starr and the Geto Boys are collaborative in their own right with multiple MCs and producers. Current groups like The Underachievers, Pro Era and Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music label are no more collaborative than past artists. So what are you really trying to say with this statement?
I could go on and provide more examples about the ignorance of this article, like your taxing write-up on Drake and how 90s purists find it hard to “ admit how important versatility and emotional complexity are now” (News flash: versatility and emotional complexity have always been present in hip-hop. If you weren’t versatile you weren’t successful, and if you didn’t have emotional complexity you didn’t have a voice.), but I think I’ve stretched this letter pretty far.
Remember, the point of this letter isn’t to bash your opinion on the artists you chose. I could give a shit about what you like or don’t like. However, when you mold your written word with statements that are completely wrong, and even more so dense and shallow about hip-hop as a whole, I have to say something. Not only do you stake opinions as fact, you make bold claims about rap and hip-hop that aren’t even true. So I ask you this: next time you’re working on a piece on hip-hop and the artists that you love, are you going to throw in random thought from your head and present it as fact? Or will you do some research on something you clearly should know more about and get the facts straight? For the benefit of those reading your article—because brain washing is a terrible thing in its own right—I hope you choose to pick your words more carefully next time.
Also remember, what I’m doing is all in the art of hip-hop, and I don’t care how you react to this, or if you even see this, but I do hope that you understand WHY I did this. Feel free to write back to Bonus Cut with a rebuttal. We love rebuttals.
Kendrick Lamar good kid, m.A.A.d. city
Three weeks ago Bonus Cut’s “Album of the Week” was Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music, a highly underrated piece that was slept on by many critics despite acclaim from others. For 2012, R.A.P. Music was the second best hip-hop record, and as it touched various lights from a veteran in a community focused on new-age rap, it was this new-age rap community that came away the winner with Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city.
The main takeaway from Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city isn’t the dazzling lyrical story-telling, the mix of pulverizing and soothing beats or even the cast of stars that are featured on the album–it’s the narrative. For perhaps the first time in the new-age rap era, Lamar gives us an unprecedented look into the wake of a rapper on an album from start to finish. As opening track “Sherane”–a song which displays a 17-year-old Lamar borrowing his mother’s car to pursue a girl–ends, we are introduced to the first of many voice-mails where his mother is asking for the car back and his father is yelling frantically about missing dominoes. It becomes apparent that these voice-mails aren’t merely voice-mails, but rather the family connection that is holding Lamar back from the Compton, California gang-life that consumes too many.
On “Backseat Freestyle” Lamar transitions his story from being a young kid pursuing girls to a newly-turned rapper freestyling over beat-tapes. The song itself seems like a masculine-charged rap with lines like “Goddamn I got bitches,” but when put into the context of the album it shows that this is the part of the story where Kendrick Lamar is just now beginning to learn how to rap and “Backseat Freestyle” is his first attempt at fitting into the scene. As it becomes evident that “Backseat Freestyle” is a continuous stream of the good kid story, Lamar’s genius becomes even more grand.
“The Art of Peer Pressure” is the next song on the album which screams classic West Coast g-funk with rolling high-pitched synths. The beginning is soothing, almost as if Kendrick is playing an ode to his idols at his friend’s house, and we see a newly turned rapper wrapped in lush happiness. However, the mood of the song changes from innocence to seriousness by way of elongated bass synths and minimalist percussion claps, and here Lamar shares a story timidly. “I never was a gangbanger,” Lamar explains, “I mean I was never stranger to the folk neither. I really doubt it. Rush a nigga quick and then we laugh about it. That’s ironic because I’ve never been violent, until I’m with the homies.”
It’s this continual line of first-person storytelling that makes good kid so strong and cohesive. We collectively see a character under the confines of urban America grow and develop and eventually learn what’s important in life. On “Real,” a song that features another voicemail, Lamar’s father puts it perfectly: “Any nigga can kill a man, that don’t make you a real nigga. Real is responsibility. Real is taking care of your motherfucking family.”
Kendrick Lamar’s second album good kid, m.A.A.d. city was released to immense critical acclaim. After this, Kendrick had cemented his reputation as a quality MC in Los Angeles but also across the country. With Kendrick’s lyricism and unique style of story telling, he allows the audience to hear, see and feel his experiences from growing up in Compton. What sticks out are the complex thoughts and skillful production found on this album. Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore sound features slower melancholy sounding production from the likes of Dr. Dre, Pharrell Williams, Just Blaze and Scoop Deville. With good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar provides knowledgeable insight into the angst of adolescence, city life, drugs, gang violence, religion and the state of hip-hop.
The first track, “Sherane,” opens with a prayer asking Jesus for forgiveness. From there Kendrick launches into a story about his attraction to a girl and the sexual tension and awkwardness of being a seventeen year old. As he puts into words in the second verse, “Love or lust, regardless we’ll fuck cause the trife in us / It’s deep rooted, the music of being young and dumb / It’s never muted, in fact it’s much louder where I’m from.” And in the third verse, “I’m thinking bout the sex, thinking bout her thighs / Or maybe kissing on her neck, or maybe what positions next / Sent a picture of her titties blowing up my texts / I looked at em and almost ran my front bumper into Corvette.” On this first song, Kendrick perfectly illustrates the complexity of teenage sexual attraction.
This is much different than the hyper-masculinity found in much of mainstream hiphop. As the album moves forward, the intricacies of growing up is evident throughout. This is especially apparent in “The Art Of Peer Pressure,” “Good Kid,” and “m.A.A.d city” where Kendrick sheds light on hanging out with his boys, the true complications of peer pressure, wanting to fit in, the harsh realities of growing up in Compton and gang violence.
On the dark and slow moving beat of “The Art Of Peer Pressure” he says, “I got the blunt in my mouth / Usually I’m drug-free, but shit I’m with the homies” And in the second verse, “Rush a nigga quick and then we laugh about it / That’s ironic cause I’ve never been violent, until I’m with the homies.” In this song, Kendrick shares with the audience his experiences with hanging with close friends, getting into trouble and doing things he probably wouldn’t do on his own time. The brilliance of this track is it’s relatable content as he speaks about being a teenager and chillin’ with his crew. Kendrick’s experiences with drugs, alcohol and girls feel all too real and comparable to most teenage boys as they come of age, regardless of where they live.
He takes this knowledge to the next level on the seventh track, “Good Kid.” Produced by The Neptunes and featuring Pharrell Williams on the hook, “Good Kid” addresses resiliency and the constant presence of gangs and police within Compton. “But what am I supposed to do with the blinking of red and blue / Flash from the top of your roof and your dog has to say woof / And you ask, ‘Lift up your shirt’ cause you wonder if a tattoo of affiliation can make it a pleasure to put me through gang files / But that don’t matter because the matter is racial profile.”
With “Good Kid,” the audience is able to understand the endless racial tension, hostility and harassment from the LAPD. At the same time, the continuous gang violence within the community is exposed. For adolescents such as Kendrick, it becomes clear that they are caught in the middle and that there is brutality from the police, but also the gangs. On “Good Kid,” Kendrick’s delivery is more subdued and it sounds like he is just observing what goes on. On the next track, “m.A.A.d. city,” Kendrick takes many of the concepts of “Good Kid” and expands on them. Comparatively, “Good Kid” is more of a subdued song, while “m.A.A.d. city” is an in your face track where Kendrick showcases his abilities to go in on a hardhitting track. On “m.A.A.d. city,” Kendrick takes on the corruption he has observed all around him as he grew up in Southern California. With this song, it feels that Kendrick is no longer a teenager but is becoming conscious of the social, political and economic inequities that have plagued his community for generations. As he puts into words, “Ak’s, AR’s, ‘Aye y’all. Duck’ / That’s what momma said when we was eatin’ the free lunch / Aw man, God damn, all hell broke loose / You killed my cousin back in ’94. Fuck yo truce.”
Kendrick Lamar’s brilliance on good kid, m.A.A.d. city is the attention to detail and picture he is able to paint about city life, adolescence, gang violence and police brutality. He is able to do this with multi-layered lyricism that pushes the listener to see through his eyes. As the album moves forward, the audience is able to grow with Kendrick and is able to experience what he is saying, not just hear it. I think of Kendrick Lamar’s album similarly to Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A. The 1988 classic shed light on the anger and frustration felt by the people of Compton following the Civil Rights Act of 1964. N.W.A gave a voice to the people of Compton, just like Kendrick Lamar has been able to do. Ultimately, good kid, m.A.A.d. city is the evolution of west coast hip-hop and of what Ice Cube refers to as street knowledge.