Kendrick Lamar dropped his major label debut album Good Kid M.A.A.D City. Some see it as a classic, I see it as a great album and a much much needed breath of fresh air. The industry nowadays is full of fleeting music, and its refreshing to get something that will stick.
I liked the ambition of making your major label debut a conceptual album, something that just about everyone else would not have the guts (or the talent) to do.
Swimming Pools was a great song, but as a single, Kendrick was definitely taking a risk. A song like that, no matter how good, might have not caught on in today’s music climate. The radio is saturated with hype, music to make you dance, and “what’s hot”; a sea of spectacle, with very few actually being spectacular.
I do think the album could have been a little bit more fluid, but I admit that that’s more so the artist in me being knit-picky, because the album was irrefutably good. Songs like B*tch Don’t Kill My Vibe, The Art Of Peer Pressure, Real, Money Tree, and Sing About Me have great replay value for me, as well crafted songs with superb production behind the dope rhymes.
Lyrically, no one can question Kendrick’s prowess. He is a beast, so I’m sure I don’t have to sell that fact to anyone. Artists around the whole music industry are hailing GKMC the Album of the Year, and some have been vocal that they think it is a classic (except for Shyne………..lol). As far as it being worth of the “classic” title, I think the verdict is still out on that. We need to let it sit for awhile and see how it stands up to the test of time.
But one thing that I don’t agree with is the “Kendrick is the West-coast Nas” comparisons that people on social media and rappers such as The Game have put out into the world. I understand why people are excited about Kendrick, but I do contend that that comparison needs to stop, not in the sense that Kendrick isn’t amazing, but in the sense that it’s unfair to him.
Before I even get into the reasons why, I do want to premise it with, in general, I think comparisons can be so problematic, especially when they are sweeping and not more specific. They attempt to compliment but can be very backhanded.
For example, many compare Kobe to MJ. If you compared Kobe’s individual skillset (jumpshot, dribbling, spin move, etc.) to MJ, then you can make the argument that they are comparable (to me and Phil Jackson, Kobe’s individual SKILLS are better, but MJ is better because of his intangibles, will to win, resume, etc.) But MJ is the greatest of all time, so to compare Kobe to him wholistically is unfair, because Kobe is great in his own right. In some ways, saying he is the closest to MJ diminishes Kobe’s accomplishments and talent. They are different players in different eras.
These type of comparisons also create a certain resentment against the person being compared. Many people have disdain for Kobe simply because they think comparing him to MJ is blasphemous. So now you are mad at someone for a comparison that they themselves did nothing to create? That isn’t fair.
So going along with this premise, my first reason is that this comparison is unfair to Kendrick.
Let Kendrick be Kendrick. I’m sure when we sits down and writes rhymes from his brilliant mind at night, he isn’t thinking “I wanna be the next Nas”. Yes, he probably was influenced by Nas. I don’t know any rapper who isn’t. But let him be the next Kendrick. Let his body of work speak for itself, and we should be appreciative of what he has to offer to the world. There was, is, and will be only one Nas. One thing is for damn certain, the legacy of Illmatic is going nowhere. The legacy of GKMC hasn’t even happened yet.
The comparisons of GKMC to Illmatic are logical in the sense they both are conceptually brilliant albums as major debuts. Both rappers are monsters on the mic as well. But when you compare Kendrick to Nas and GKMC to Illmatic, all the pluses go to Nas, and all the minuses go to Kendrick. This comparison could make some people more critical of Kendrick’s album than they should be, because they feel that comparing it to Illmatic is too lofty and somewhat blasphemous. Instead of seeing it as a great album that deserves our attention, they will see it as an ok album that is not worthy to be compared in the same breathe as Nas’s masterpiece. And that is a disservice to Kendrick.
My other reason why Kendrick is not the “West-coast Nas”, one word:
IF we absolutely had to make a comparison (which I don’t like to do, but will make for critical argument sake) then it would have to be to her favorite colour.
In my eyes, Below The Heavens is the only album in recent years that deserves the comparison to Illmatic.
Both albums take your through a sort of “day-in-the-life” narrative of the respective rappers (one in Queens, the other in L.A), with songs filled with multi-syllabic rhyme schemes, a balance of symbol and complex metaphors, and higher level lyrical dexterity. The production genius of Exile is are more close stylistically and artistically comparable to that of Illmatic, headed by DJ Premier, Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip and others.
While Below The Heavens obviously hasn’t gained the notoriety or commercial success of Illmatic (nor GKMC), like Illmatic, it was an underground classic, even before people really gave it the attention, critical dissecting, and praise it deserves. Many people have a romanticism with Illmatic, as if people immediately thought it was the dopest rap album ever. But that realization was not immediate though. It came over time.
And on an individual basis, Blu is the quintessential “your rapper’s favorite rapper” of our time, as Nas was, and in many respects, still is. Not nearly enough people know who Blu is or have heard Below The Heavens. But if you ask the majority of the up-coming artists (and especially on the west-coast), they will say Blu is one of the top, if not the best, rappers, even though many don’t know who he is.
Lupe Fiasco once said that, competitively, “Blu is the only MC in the game that scares me” (Lupe later recanted at a concert and added Eminem to that list). Regardless if you agree or not, a statement like that from the Food & Liquor MC is a big deal.
I could go more in depth but I want to try to keep this article relatively short and sweet. (For a more in depth analysis of the Blu-Nas comparison, check out this amazing article illHeavens at 2DBZ).
So yeah, that’s my stance. Kendrick shouldn’t be compared to Nas. Kendrick is an amazing MC in his own right. But if someone from the left-coast had to be compared to Nas, it should be Blu.
And most importantly, love GKMC for the incredible album it is in its own right. Go buy it, now if you haven’t. If you have, maybe buy it one more time. Good music needs to be supported with our money, not our opinion on Twitter.
Let me know what you think, agree, disagree, wish I had expounded on, etc. Please be respectful, critical thinkers in your comments though (you know how some “hip-hop heads” can get. Somehow their opinion on a subject coincides with the wisdom of the universe, and they need to correct me for my complete obliviousness). Have a great day yall
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