Christmas songs are as big a part of the season as crowded shopping malls and spiked eggnog, but there are only so many times you can hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” without wanting to wretch just a little. Here are some suggestions for compiling a Yuletide playlist that perhaps isn’t quite so musty. Much of the music can be purchased or ordered locally at Guestroom Records, Size Records and the like.
The album, which Lamar labeled as a “short film,” tells the story of his life as a good kid in the mad city of Compton, Calif. He raps about trying to avoid temptations, including women, drugs, alcohol, violence and revenge. However, even the good kids succumb to temptation from time to time.
The disc twists the listener through the story, one of growth and redemption. It details a night in Compton when Lamar was a teenager, but also includes many elements of his youth and current life. Each song tells part of the story: being set up by a girl he likes, the death of one of his friends as they seek revenge, his own ultimate realization that the street life isn’t for him.
The album includes some fantastic interludes that only pull the listener deeper into the story. These include exchanges between Lamar and his friends, a shootout in which one of his friends is murdered, advice from an unidentified older woman, and voicemails from his mother and father, both of whom are worried about his well-being throughout.
From start to finish, Good Kid doesn’t have a bad song, but there are those that stand out. “The Art of Peer Pressure” is a grimy song about Lamar succumbing to peer pressure, committing robberies and stepping outside of his usual sobriety by smoking weed. Later in the album, it’s revealed that he accidentally hit a blunt laced with PCP, further showing the ills of the mad city.
The most emotionally charged moments of the album come on “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” a one-track combination of two songs. In the first, he speaks about the aforementioned shootout, its outcome and situations like it. He speaks of fallen homies, keeping his promise to “sing about them.” On the second, he speaks about being fed up with the street life, which is shown perfectly by the opening words: “Tired of runnin’, tired of huntin’ my own kind.” The track closes with an interlude where an old woman pleads with the young men to stop the violence.
The track that follows and begins to close the album is “Real,” featuring lesser-known songstress Anna Wise. This song is young Lamar’s way of saying he wants to step away from the street life. While Compton is home, the lifestyle of many of his friends doesn’t suit him. He doesn’t want to be caught up in gangs or violence; he wants to make something of himself. The song ends with heart-wrenching voicemails from his parents, both telling him what he seems to already know: The evils of the mad city don’t fit him.
While Lamar decides to escape the rough street life, he pays homage to his city in the final track, “Compton,” which features legendary Compton rapper Dr. Dre, on whose Aftermath label this disc sits.
Lamar’s lyrical ability is apparent as ever, and especially worth noting is his ability to alter his flow to match each beat. Also noticeable is the way he changes his tone of voice at times, showing different emotions and providing for a unique sound.
Outstanding production from in-house producer Sounwave, fellow Cali native Terrace Martin and heavyweights like Pharrell and Just Blaze compliment Lamar’s lyrics perfectly. The album’s only other guests are Drake, Jay Rock and another Compton legend, MC Eiht, all of whom seem to fit perfectly into their respective roles.
Lamar’s story is inspiring, and at times hard to fathom, but above all, his story is real. The young rapper doesn’t hold back anything on this record. It is raw, honest and extremely emotional. This is a story that needed to be told, and the way he tells it is flawless. —Ryan Querbach