The Art of Peer Pressure: A Roundtable on Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid” — Scott Leedy

Scott Leedy also endorses orange soda and E-40. I don’t know if GKMC is a classic. I don’t know if it’s the best album of the year. I don’t know if it’s the best rap album. I don’t know...
By    October 26, 2012

Scott Leedy also endorses orange soda and E-40.

I don’t know if GKMC is a classic. I don’t know if it’s the best album of the year. I don’t know if it’s the best rap album. I don’t know if it’s better than Section.80, and I don’t know how many listens it will take me to figure it out. I don’t know if the plethora of skits was necessary, I don’t know if putting a 12 minute song back to back with a 7 minute song was a case of poor editing or sheer brilliance. I don’t know if the chorus on “Backstreet Freestyle” simply sucks, or if the uninteresting chant is intentional. For now at least I don’t really care about any of that. There’s much more important things to consider.

Kendrick Lamar wants answers. On both Section.80 and GKMC he’s fervently searching. Trying to find satisfying answers to the overarching human question of: who am I, where am I, and how did I get here? Section.80 is an attempt to answer that on a macro level. It’s an attempt to contextualize and explain the generation he belongs to. Maybe by placing the larger group he can better understand himself. Fuck the differences, where’s the commonality? What happens when your age doesn’t exist? What if God can’t save us? What if you can’t turn the other cheek? Why do we feel so lost? What defines us? What happens when you don’t care about anything, When you drink and party to forget about your indifference? Maybe placing the larger group will help him better understand himself.

GKMC ditches the broader exposition to focus on Kendrick’s own unique experiences. It’s an inquiry into the life of mild mannered kid growing up on the streets of Compton. What happens when the first girl you fall for sets you up to get hit? What happens when your daily hangouts include drugs, prostitutes and home invasion? What does a city filled with violence, and drenched in drugs and alcohol do to a gentle, thoughtful, sober kid? What if money trees are the only place to find shade? What happens when you discover rap? What if you could make it? What if the fame changed you? What if you catch one before your time? Will anyone remember you?

I don’t think Kendrick finds much in the way of answers on either album. The questions are too big, too sprawling and complex. Even the smallest glimpse of resolution brings with it more issues, questions and problems. That’s the beauty of it all. Fuck trying to decide if this GKMC is a classic. I don’t want to compare it to Illmatic or decide if it has that “it” factor. Yeah, maybe there’s too many skits. So what? Maybe the 12-minute song was a little excessive. But who gives a shit. All of that is missing the point.

GKMC is about being lost, imperfect, being swallowed up by the world around you. Feeling like there’s always some things you can’t escape. I care about this album because THAT is unbelievably human. I care because it so desperately wants answers to the unanswerable questions.

GMKC isn’t about brilliance or cohesiveness. We aren’t reveling in the genius, the forethought, or the overpowering wisdom. We’re captivated by a young kid from Compton who’s struggling to figure everything out. Engaged by a rapper who’s sharing in the common confusion while trying to explain his own unique issues. Kendrick Lamar wants answers. For now he’ll have to settle for asking all the right questions.

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