Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d city [Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope, 2012]
The rap-versus-real dichotomy Saigon moralizes anthemically Lamar enacts softspokenly in this so-called "short film." (Concept album? In 2012? Nah.) The accuracy of its intimate autobiographical details is irrelevant--what matters is that this album helps you feel the internal struggles of a good kid who may not be good enough as he risks derailing his life by succumbing to the kneejerk loyalty, petty criminality, and gang warfare of the hood he calls home. Nobody is heroic here, including Lamar--from Christian strivers to default sociopaths, all the players are confused, weary, bored, ill-informed, with disconcertingly naturalistic, almost verit? skits dramatizing their limitations. The commitment to drama has musical drawbacks--there are no dancefloor bangers here, and not many fully distinct songs, although more hooks than you'll first believe. But the atmospheric beats Dr. Dre and his hirelings lay under the raps and choruses establish musical continuity, shoring up a nervous flow that's just what Lamar's rhymes need. A-