By Joseph Rowan / LifeAtStart.com Reporter
At first glance, Kendrick Lamar’s second studio album good kid, m.A.A.d city may look like a stereotypical rap album, but what you don’t know is the story of Kendrick breaking free from Compton and overcoming gang violence. Each song on the album has a skit in the beginning, middle, or end which tells the story.
The first song in the narrative is the song Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe. The song is about Kendrick’s faith and is about what he doesn’t like in the rap industry, this is Kendrick talking from present day, while the rest of the narrative is from the past. The song ends with a skit where his friends tell him “K.Dot, get in the car n****. C’mon it’s time to roll out. I’ve got a packet of blacks and a beat cd.” Which means Kendrick is going to smoke and rap with his friends while they drive around Compton. Kendrick jumps into the car with his friends to freestyle with them, which transitions into the next song, Backseat Freestyle. Kendrick’s rap style changes in this song, to signify that he is someone else when he is with his friends. Instead of rapping about things he cares about, he raps about killing, sex, and money. In the song he says “All my life I want money and power / Respect my mind or die from lead shower” which is a lot different from what he talked about in the previous song.
The Beginning of the Narrative
The first song of the beginning of the narrative is The Art of Peer Pressure which features a voice that interrupts Kendrick’s raps throughout the song. The intro to this song has Kendrick telling everyone to sit down and listen to his story. Kendrick talks about gang violence and especially peer pressure. Kendrick says he normally doesn’t smoke, but he might as well because he is with his homies and he doesn’t want to be prude, and that he might catch his first offense with them, but they end up not doing anything. The skit at the end of the song has his friends talking about Kendrick being faded (very high), then they realize Kendrick “hit” the blunt with shenanigans (in this skit, shenanigans means the drug PCP). Kendrick later references this in the song m.A.A.d. City, where he says “what if your first blunt had you foamin’ out the mouth?”
The next song that tells the story is Compton. This is and Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe are the only two songs on the album told from a present day point of view. This song is only important to the narrative, because at the end Kendrick says “Mom, I finna use the van real quick! Be back, 15 minutes!”
Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s daughter follows Kendrick after he borrowed his Mother’s car. He raps about meeting a girl at school and how he loved her at first sight,which caused them to be become very interested in each other. He talks about taking his Mother’s car to drive to Sherane’s house. Kendrick is very thrilled to have sexual relations with Sherane, but when he finally gets to her house there are two men waiting for him when he gets out of the car. This is foreshadowed in the song when Kendrick says “Her favorite cousin Demetrius irrepetible / Family history of gang banging – did make me skeptical.”
Kendrick’s realization of Compton’s dangers
Poetic Justice is the beginning of Kendrick’s realization of Compton’s dangers. Poetic Justice and Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter are parallel, in which, they both are about Kendrick meeting Sherane. While Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter is about Kendrick driving his Mother’s car to meet Sherane, Poetic Justice is about the thought process while he is going to her house. The skit at the end of the song picks up where Sherane left off, Kendrick is being confronted by the two men in the black hoodies. They ask Kendrick where his family stays and if he is over at the house for Sherane. This is basically the climax of the story because Kendrick finally realizes he needs to leave the death ridden Compton.
The next song, good kid, really shows Kendrick’s transformation. He talks about being jumped by the two men in the black hoodies and even says “I recognize that I’m easy prey / I got eaten alive yesterday.” He also references that the continuing gang violence in Compton is a large problem, he says “What am I supposed to do / when the topic is red or blue” which references the two main gangs in Compton the Bloods and the Crips.
Good Kid and the next song m.A.A.d. city are both about the same thing, Kendrick’s self-awareness. He references The Art of Peer Pressure saying that the blunt he smoked while driving down Rosecrans Blvd. was laced with PCP and it had him foaming at the mouth. We also hear about how he saw someone get shot at a burger stand where a certain person hangs out, but he doesn’t reveal his name when he is interviewed by the police because he isn’t a snitch. He also references that he was fired from his job because he faked a robbery after his friends convinced him too. The whole point of the song is that Kendrick is realizing how much is life has been messed up because he was gang banging.
K.Dot becoming Kendrick/ The resolution
The resolution begins with the song Money Trees. The song basically reassess everything that has happened throughout the narrative like Kendrick smoking weed that was laced with PCP, and driving to Sherane’s only to get beaten up by her cousins/family members. He also raps about the current situation of Compton and how the only way to fit in is to gang bang. At the end of the song, Kendrick’s Mother calls him once again and suggests that Kendrick has been gone for a while and she just wants to get out of the house because Kendrick’s dad is “feeling himself” which means he is either drunk or high and having a good time.
The next song Swimming Pools (Drank) may seem like a typical party song but it is not. In the narrative, Kendrick decides to go out with his friends, even though he knows alcoholism runs in his family. Kendrick tangles with his conscience because he has drank excessive amounts of alcohol and it is now harming his body, Kendrick knows this and says “If I take another one down, I’ma drown in some poison, abusin’ my limit” which is showing that Kendrick himself is battling with alcohol abuse. In the skit at the end of the song, Kendrick’s friends find out that Kendrick was set up by Sherane, which causes Kendrick’s friends to go and confront Sherane and her family. They see someone and gunshots are heard in the background, they jump into the car and see that one of the gang members (Dave) has been shot and killed, his brother even says “These b**** ass n***** killed my brother”
Finally, the longest song on the album Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst. The song is presented in a couple different perspectives, which include Dave and his brother. The main idea of the song is about death, the hook of the song is about Kendrick hoping he will be remembered through his music when he dies. Dave’s brother sings about how Kendrick helped Dave during the final hours of his life and that his death is another result of Compton’s corrupt nature. The song also features some lines from Dave, and how he admires Kendrick’s passion and how he wants him to sing about him.
The conclusion features two songs, which both fit into this small conclusion I am going to write. The songs Compton and Real, have the same perspective about Kendrick now being comfortable with himself and how he is successful because of his rap career. Finally, Kendrick is free from the restraints of Compton, but the story is not over. The album ends on Compton with the tape rewinding and starting from the beginning where Kendrick borrows the car from his Mother. This cements the idea that although this is the ending, it is also the beginning.
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