City of Compton the Urban Underground
City of Compton California made it’s explosive debut on the mainstream scene through underground gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A. at the height of the mid-80’s. When the group disbanded a few years later, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and company continually served the masses major doses of bouncing ’64 lowriders, jheri curls, khaki suits, and westcoast street tales through solo projects. And although newer proteges like “The Game” reignited the Compton flame that blew out at the turn of the 21st century, the California music culture has been met with weak interest in the years since.
Fast forward to 2012 and we have underground artist Kendrick Lamar, another young artist daring to pin his city back on the map with his debut Good Kid M.a.a.d City. This album serves as a coming of age memoir; lyrical tales of a young man reminiscing on his growth from ignorant youth to adult wisdom in one summer.
After a quick disclaimer prayer on the melodic but haunting intro track “Sherane”, Kendrick wastes no time recalling the joy of a youth in pursuit of numbers and drawls at a party.
“Ass came with a hump from the jump, she was a camel/ I wanna ride like Arabians pushing on a Mercedes Benz, ‘Hello, my name is Kendrick’, she said “No, you’re handsome”.
The next “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” shows an older, wiser Kendrick reflecting on his refusal to sell out to the industry or allow any company near that would distract his peace of mind.
“Look inside of my soul and you could find gold and maybe get rich/ Look inside of your soul and you could find out it never exist/ I could feel the changes/ I could feel the new people round me just wanna be famous”.
Amid skits of worried parents, friends peer pressuring him into chasing skirts, home invasion & shoot outs, familiar listeners may feel they’re hearing a musical version of City of Compton films “Boyz N the Hood” and “Menace II Society”, both laced in urban underground California culture.
The album is also executive produced by Dr. Dre who signed Kendrick to his Aftermath imprint. Ghostwritten or not, Dre drops a very standout feature on the outro “Compton”, even shouting out fallen homies.
“You never questioned when I said I would be a mogul before I visit 2pac and Left Eye/ Eazy and Aaliyah when I see ya we gon’ test drive a Lambo in heaven but for now I’m on a Red Eye” he proudly boasts.
Even west Coast vet MC Eight features on title track m.a.a.d city, though it’s disappointing he only talks rather than lay a hook or 16. With solid production, 16’s and background vocalists, it’s very clear this album was carefully crafted as a memorable gem.
Article Written By: Kwintell Wright