You Should Listen to More Hip Hop, Starting with Kendrick Lamar | One of Us

You Should Listen to More Hip Hop, Starting with Kendrick Lamar

22 Submitted by on Fri, 07 February 2014, 16:01

Editor’s Note: This article was written by my good friend and former podcast co-host, Mr. Matt Hudson. Matt is an audio engineer and musician who has an unhealthy obsession with numerous genres of music, from pop to Swedish death metal to bebop and everything in between (except country, oddly enough). If you enjoy this section and would like to see more music posts on the site, please let us know!

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(Full disclosure: I’m a bearded white guy from the South.)

I was having a conversation with a friend recently, and I asked if he had heard Kendrick Lamar’s latest album, Good Kid: M.A.A.D City, to which he replied, “No. Ew. I don’t listen to rap.” I asked my friend if he had ever given hip hop an honest try and he said he hadn’t. I was a little taken aback, but I’m not really sure why. I understand that hip hop music isn’t for everyone, and there are people who might have legitimate reasons for not liking it. People like and dislike the things they do and there’s little we can do to change that.

I, for one, HATE country music. Because, come on, it’s country music.

I, for one, HATE country music. Because, come on, it’s country music.

The only thing I ever ask is that no matter what you may like, you should at least give an artist or a genre an honest chance before you cast judgment. I’ve noticed that hip hop is a particularly common target of people’s vitriol, despite the fact that many people have only heard a limited (read: bad) selection of the available offerings. Though everyone’s tastes do differ, it seems a lot of people have preconceived ideas about what hip hop is and what it isn’t. If you’re the kind of person who has an diverse taste in music and you haven’t given hip hop a fair shot, then I think it’s about damn time you did. Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid: M.A.A.D City is a good place to start.

Did you see the Kendrick Lamar/Imagine Dragons performance on the Grammys? If not, I’ve posted the video down below for you. Needless to say, Kendrick KILLED it. I’d even go as far as to say that Imagine Dragons killed it as Kendrick’s band (sorry to any Imagine Dragons fans, but I don’t ever want to hear “Radioactive” again as long as I live, unless it’s the performance with Mr. Lamar from the Grammys). Kendrick has two full albums and a few mixtapes, but his biggest splash has been the aforementioned Good Kid: M.A.A.D City which is the one I’m most intimately familiar.

 

So what makes Kendrick worth listening to, you ask? Well, there are a few reasons, and one of them is his technical rapping abilities. I’d dare say that Mr. Lamar can hang with the likes of guys like Eminem. For the uninitiated, Eminem, despite his personal flaws and vices, is considered one of the best when it comes to technical ability among modern day artists. In fact, when I first heard the third verse of the song “Backseat Freestyle,” I thought that Eminem was making a guest appearance. Turns out, it was just Kendrick switching up his flow and rhyme scheme. The man has an undeniably fluid flow, a trait that shouldn’t be as rare as it is among mainstream hip hop artists.

That brings me to my next point: Kendrick isn’t afraid to get weird and mix it up when it comes to style, flow and perspective. In the first verse of the song “Sing about Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” he raps from the perspective of the brother of a friend who had just been killed. In the next verse, he raps from the perspective of a sister of a friend who was a prostitute (it gets a little convoluted at times, but that’s what makes it fun). One of my favorite examples is when he raps from the perspective of his own conscience in the second verse of the song “Swimming Pools (Drank).” In this particular verse the vocals are slowly panned from right to left to give the verse a dream-like effect. Honestly, there are so many interesting elements concerning the production quality of this album that I could discuss it for days, but that might be for a different post.

One of the main reasons why this album is so good is the narrative that is somewhat buried within the album. At the beginning and end of certain songs there are skits where the listener hears people talking about various things. These skits, combined with the subject matter of the songs, create a narrative about a kid growing up in Compton, and eventually rejecting a life of crime. I know some of you are rolling your eyes at the idea of skits in a hip hop album. It seems skits were popular a few years ago among rappers, but most of them were really lame and distracted from the album. Luckily, the skits on Good Kid: M.A.A.D City are interesting and thought-provoking. The narrative, though, is difficult to piece together because the “story” doesn’t begin until the middle of the album, and the beginning of the album drops the listener into the middle of the narrative. If you’re willing to take the time to piece it together, the narrative of this album is definitely one that will move you.

What’s more impressive is that even though all these songs fit together to tell a story, they can easily be extracted from the album individually for radio-friendly hip hop songs. Upon first listen, “Swimming Pools (Drank)” appears to be another rap song about drinking and partying, but after actually reading the lyrics and listening in context of the album, it becomes clear that the song is actually about peer pressure and alcoholism. It has to be difficult, as an artist, to write a song that your label can play on the radio but also fits into your vision of an album. Usually, it seems that hip hop artists have to pick between the two.

 

I could go on and on about this album, but for your sake, I’ll let you figure the rest out for yourself. Obviously, there are many great hip hop artists worth listening to (mainstream and underground alike), but I was so impressed with this album that I felt compelled to share. Like I said before, hip hop isn’t for everyone. Still, I would encourage you to give the genre a shot, even if you have before and didn’t care for it, because as long as artists like Kendrick Lamar are working, music will continue to evolve.

If you’re now interested in giving Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid: M.A.A.D City a listen, please consider using the link below to purchase it. By clicking the image below, One of Us will receive a cut of anything you purchase from Amazon, even if it’s not the album! Thank you for the support!

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Dimitry is a seasoned researcher, a public media enthusiast, a lifelong gamer, and a fanatical technophile. While he holds degrees in political science, public policy, and legislative affairs from two of the nation’s finest universities, Dimitry is most proud of his Bachelor of Chiptune awarded by the chip-punk gods of Anamanaguchi. Additionally, Dimitry regularly spends far too much money on movies, video games, graphic novels, music, and the rest of his geeky passions. After a brief stint as a podcast host and a summer working with National Public Radio’s Intelligence Squared U.S., Dimitry is making his triumphant return to media as a member of the OneOfUs crew.