I bought an album Monday—as a matter of fact, I bought a few copies of the same album—because reminiscent to a few albums in the past, the anticipation and culturally need for my purchase was clearly evident. With the influx of technology and convenience, we have quickly moved away from the social significance of an album release date. Remember going to the store, even if it was some chain store like Best Buy or Target, to purchase an album? Those days are slowly, but surely coming to a close and honestly and I’m not sure I’m ready for the change.
Holding that tangible object used to mean something bigger than just clicking submit on a purchase order, it meant: making the sacrifice to head to the record store, remembering who you were with and taking entirely too long to rip the packaging off. I understand and agree with the need for innovation, but seeing groups of people from all walks of life come together in that one instance to celebrate new music is a beautiful thing; especially when we have watched an artist grow, while remaining true to himself and his culture.
The hype surrounding Kendrick Lamar’s “debut” album, Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, was refreshing, as these release dates seem to simply fade away as soon as the lead single gets old. There were conversations nationwide, from media giants to college dormitories, discussing if he could/would live up to the hype. Early on, while many still knew him as K. Dot, it was his Kendrick Lamar EP that broke him in as someone to watch; which lead a placement on XXL’s Top Ten Freshmen List in 2011. Songs such as “Ignorance Is Bliss” from his Overly Dedicated mixtape, in which he glorified Hip-Hop’s roots in gangsta rap and crime, while placing the phrase “but ignorance is bliss” at the end of every verse proved Kendrick’s uncanny ability of awareness, while still understanding the ins-and-outs of the streets of Compton. We have seen such rhetoric in Hip-Hop from Lupe Fiasco and Lord Willin—era Clipse, but never anything this real, this close to home. We have been looking for an album honest in its presentation, but we have to realize days of old are simply that, days of old.
Biggie and ‘Pac are gone.
Big L never got his chance to show everyone.
Big Pun was unfairly underrated before his death.
Jay, Nas, Eminem, Lil’ Wayne and Kanye are in a different space mentally.
We may never get another Outkast album.
Can we move on? Can we look to these new rappers for a vision of the future now? Can we stop expecting records like “Dead Presidents,” “Machine Gun Funk” and “One Love?” My iPod is filled with classic albums from Tribe’s Low End Theory to Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx and even Young Jeezy’s Thug Motivation 101, but scroll down a bit and you will see gems from newcomers like Blu’s Below The Heavens, Wiz Khalifa’s Kush and Orange Juice and Big Krit’s Krit Wuz Here. As liberal as Hip-Hop listeners claim to be, many of us refuse to accept and support newer artists, but such a mindset is simply an impediment.
With Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, we as a culture have an opportunity to support one of our own who has come up listening to music similar to many of us. The album is a conceptual piece of genius work, literally telling a story many of us can understand. The first song on the album feels like a reinterpretation of Andre 3000’s “Life in the day of Andre Benjamin” as he laces lustful lyrics over a haunting instrumental candidly speaking about his objectives with “Sherane”,“Seventeen, with nothing but pussy stuck on my mental/My motive was rather sinful/What you trying to get into?” Young adults, men and women, have been there; Kendrick depicts it perfectly.
His 2nd person narratives throughout the album speak to an entire generation of kids who have witnessed a variety of life’s ills, know exactly what the term “writing letters up North” means and can accurately count the people in their lives who are, “living their life in bottles.” It is too early to call the album a classic, but music that speaks directly to an entire generation through conceptual examples definitely has potential to snag that title.
It is easy to point fingers at artists by picking their lyrics apart, but when I hear an album that gives me pause, in which I refuse to hit the next button out of the fear of interrupting—that’s something special. Of course, there will be those who say the album is over-hyped, but in a time when lyricism and storytelling is frowned upon, he must be doing something right as this album has received overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Just as we are winding our way through the digital age, as the days of purchasing CD’s come to an abrupt end, the days of refusing to accept new artists are ending as well. There have been a slew of new artists that have come along in the last few years and now more than ever, it is time to give them a shot. Nas once penned the phrase; “Hip Hop is Dead,” but hopefully Kendrick’s album which dropped on October 22nd will put that phrase and that concept to rest, once and for all.