Kendrick Lamar: A Classic for a New Generation

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Although I’ve been raving about Kendrick Lamar’s latest album for a week now, I still don’t have a copy of my own.

I mean, I could easily get an “advance copy,” but K. Dot deserves so much more than that. And everyone in Birmingham must agree – Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is sold out everywhere in our fair city. I could go to iTunes, but I like real CDs, dagnabbit.

In my review of Kendrick’s monumental album, I made this statement:

There’s not a lot of commercial appeal here so don’t be shocked if K. Dot doesn’t go triple-quadruple platinum.

Maybe, for the first time in recorded history, I was wrong. I was pleased to see my Twitter light up with people proudly going to iTunes and gasp, hitting up Best Buy to get the latest album, not simply relying on download links that could give your laptop cyber syphilis. With this type of support, Kendrick might hit platinum after all.

But why the groundswell of support? It’s not like Kendrick had a hot single that caught fire. In fact, the pessimist in me says the reason why all those hard copies sold out is because his record label undershipped the album – they probably didn’t even anticipate such support.

I’ll put my Haterade back in the fridge and think this through. I believe the real reason for K. Dot’s success is history. People want to be a part of history. And I don’t think it’s too soon to say that Kendrick’s debut is a historic moment in today’s hip-hop culture.

For years I’ve spoken out about those who prematurely label an album a classic (remember when people were claiming that Tha Carter II was a classic? Ugh). A true classic is an album that stretches boundaries and influences future artists. Real classics should be considered turning points in the culture. Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is a cinematic coming-of-age tale, a masterful art of storytelling that is all but nonexistent in today’s rap scene.

Old-timer hip-hop fans like myself can relate to Kendrick’s album because it’s a throwback to the elements that caused us to fall in love with music way back when. But newer fans are hooked because Kendrick is one of their own. I was introduced to Kendrick years ago by a cousin who was still in his teens at the time. Those younger fans watched Kendrick evolve, the same way my crew watched that chubby-cheeked kid with the chipped tooth become the legendary Nas. And while I content Nas’ Life Is Good is slightly better than Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City, my cousin will never buy that because he doesn’t have the connection to Nas that I have. I actually respect that.

Gone are the days of 1998, when you had DMX, Jay-Z, OutKast and Lauryn Hill dropping classic albums in the same calendar year. When was hip hop’s last true classic? Kanye West’s College Dropout in 2004, maybe? Young fans have been aching for a classic to define their generation. They finally have it. And my generation can respect that.

Kudos to Kendrick Lamar for embarking on another hip-hop turning point. Now, what was my iTunes password?


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