GOOD KID, M.A.A.D CITY
(2012) Kendrick Lamar
MY FAVOURITE album of the year and also the best. The two are not always interchangeable. ''Best'' can be most important or the most significant. In these instances you might not cite the one you really like. Also some people disagree with others nominating ''the best'' because it is so subjective and immense. No one can hear all the music. I haven't heard the Neil Young one. I haven't heard Dr John, who is really liked by people I respect.
Yet Kendrick Lamar, the prodigious 23-year-old MC from Compton, Los Angeles: Yowsers. Part of the deal here for me is it reminds me of the first time I heard Snoop (although it is just the tiniest bit like Snoop) and it also reminds me of the first time I heard Lil Wayne (ditto) and B.I.G and also Jay-Z right back in the day: urban but not yet urbane, confused, illogical, poetic by accident, moral only to a point because of the amoral contextual surrounds.
It is the sound of a young man trying to decide what is right and wrong with all the lack of clarity and mistakes that it brings. The Art of Peer Pressure is the fulcrum I think - a track about a young black man in Compton having no will, almost, to walk away (''Really I'm a peacemaker but I'm with the homies''). Compton, in south LA, was the birthplace of gangsta rap, more or less, with NWA. There had been murmurings before with Ice-T in the mid-'80s in Crenshaw, LA, but NWA's Straight Outta Compton blew it right open.
Kendrick Lamar is not a gangsta. He has what he has called an ''active'' father; that is, a father who could guide him. He sees his homeland through this prism and sees it well: it is a record about temptation and vice but also virtue and strength of purpose.