Published on December 17th, 2012 | by Patrick Delehanty2
Kendrick Lamar – Best of 2012 by Patrick Delehanty
I don’t like top 10 lists anymore- in this day and age, chances are if you have seen one, you’ve seen 95% of them. It’s this revelation that came to me in the last month or so as my phone has been exploding with emails of press contacts touting their artists as the best band of 2012, the band to look out for in 2013, this band made it on this list, or simply, is this record on your top 10 lists? I like having the access of emails containing new records from this year to check out, it gives me something new to look forward to every other day or so. But truthfully everyone, I’ve grown tired. I don’t know if it’s work, life in general, or being tired of dream pop. Yes, I heard Beach House. I didn’t like it. I got bored senseless listening to that record. I have heard enough synthesizers and reverb/spacey vocals to last me the next 10 years. It’s not for me. Cheers to you if you enjoy.
I will keep it short and sweet for you, since I know you probably have more interesting things to do than read what I liked most about this year. But allow me to step back for a second. Did you read what I wrote in the paragraph above? About how I am growing tired of the top 10 list game and being bombarded with like-minded lists? Well, ironically enough, my favorite album of 2012 topped many of lists, and on some sites that calculate list averages, is considered the best record of 2012. I am talking about Good Kid, M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar.
This was the record this year for me that came out of left field (again, for me- this is my first brush with Kendrick) and landed in my lap via a recommendation link messaged to me on Facebook. I put it off. For a good amount of time actually. The message was sent on October 19th, linking to a stream on ThisSoundGoesAround.com of Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. I didn’t touch it until Thanksgiving weekend during a drive to my parent’s house. What I heard was a kid going back to his Compton roots, giving me a story, showcasing his influence amongst peers whom all made a name for themselves collaboratively, and something that I felt excited over. The beats, the lyrical content, emotions, etc, all gave way to a hip hop effort that I felt in some way had been long overdue and much welcomed by myself with open arms. It was interesting hearing a kid from Compton give me a life story while I was driving through my own upbringing in a corn field in rural northern Illinois. Incredibly different, but that’s the beauty in music.
While I don’t think that this is something that will be noticed for a decent amount of time, I do believe what Kendrick Lamar has presented us with will be something that is looked back on with fond feelings and influence. In some circles it’s being considered the next classic hip hop record that will be walking the legendary status paved roads of Dre, Nas, or Jay Z. Sure, it might, and the influences are there. But I personally think to compare what this young man is doing with the likes of a list such as the one I just presented, is doing him a disservice, and those gentlemen as well. We have to understand we are looking at a different game than what we are used to. This is ambition, something the genre needs. Not saying that these men do not embody those qualities themselves, they do. But I think we need fresh blood, someone that takes those qualities and brings a new spin on them. I have heard the masses trying to mimic what the artists of our hip hop past time have already done. For years actually. Many, many, many years. God bless their hearts for trying. Again, trying.
What Kendrick Lamar did with Good Kid, M.A.A.D City extended beyond his genre. He opened a new door, elevated not only his own bar, but others as well. This isn’t a record touting gold chains, millions of dollars, pussy on speed dial, or shooting up the dude that crosses your path. This isn’t a name dropping record, shouting out new connections with Dre and the Aftermath label. While some of those themes may pop into the mix to occasionally wave their hand and let you aware of their presence, we’re looking at an artist grow in his lyrics, battling internal conflicts, external conflicts, expanding his own horizons while trying to stay connected to what crafted him into the man that we are hearing today. We aren’t looking so much at music anymore as we are an emotional ride that Lamar is taking us on. Hitting us hard when he needs to, and letting us into his insecurities when he’s feeling most vulnerable. That’s his strong point- the dude knows how to make a mood out of what he’s conveying. When he’s being open and honest, he’s making you feel as part of his inner circle, but when he’s brash and self serving, dammnit does he let you know it. This is the work of those rare moments in music where something new is being created, or at least being stirred. We’re not quite sure what it is yet or when it will be something where we say That’s why it’s important, but Kendrick Lamar managed to perk our ears and turn many heads this year with his Good Kid, M.A.A.D City release.
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what we need from music now. Someone to make a record where we pause, reflect, and look deeper into the message at hand. With so much face value that we are spoon fed every single day, I implore us to take something in that gives new insights, or a different viewpoint, while letting his influences be known; whether artistically, emotionally, or through his upbringing. I offer as my resources the lists that are being posted as we speak that are claiming this to be the record of 2012. Again, it might not be obvious yet, but give it time. This will be a record we look back on as a standard, and for once, I think this is a release that I can nod in unison with my list creating peers lifting Kendrick Lamar on their shoulders for his hip hop artistry. While the elements of our hip hop forefathers are still very alive and well in Kendrick’s new record, bringing out the best elements of both the West Coast gun clapping to the East Coast reflection and storytelling, the comparisons don’t do anyone any good. Listen for yourself, you’ll see what I am talking about. Kudos Kendrick.