Pazz & Jop: Kendrick Lamar, Finally Compton's Most Wanted

It took quite some time for the rapper to become an overnight success

You can't ignore the impact of the Top Dawg brass. Rather than prematurely sign to a major label, Lamar's talent was incubated alongside an in-house team of engineers, producers, management, and other gifted rappers. When Dre finally arrived, it was to teach a postdoctoral course. Lamar was neither the offspring of blog hype nor a gimmicky video. He was unabashedly sincere and post-regional, but obviously rooted in the bloody soil of Compton.

Good kid, m.A.A.d city wears its influences proudly. There are references to E-40, Ice Cube, Uncle Luke, and Houston anthem "25 Lighters." Avatars from the '90s like Dr. Dre and MC Eiht appear. So does Lil Wayne, if only in the spirit of Lamar's wordplay and Silly Putty voice. His introspection and war with his conscience recalls Eminem, and he occasionally flexes a DMX growl. The narrative intricacy channels Jay-Z, Nas, the Notorious B.I.G., and Slick Rick (via Snoop Dogg). Lamar boasts an aesthetic and slant toward spirituality similar to the early Dungeon Family records. Above all, his ability to induce tears and articulate the totality of the struggle reflects what he absorbed from Tupac. Of course, there are the aforementioned movies.


See the full 2012 Pazz and Jop Critics Poll.
See the full 2012 Pazz and Jop Critics Poll.


Miguel Is Living The Dream
Sex takes center stage on his sophomore album
By Brian McManus

Frank Ocean's Sea Change
His musical and personal honesty made waves in 2012
By Eric Sundermann

A Trip Through Fiona Apple's Wheelhouse
The singer-songwriter wrestles with the idea of mind as machine
By Audra Schroeder

Kendrick Lamar, Finally Compton's Most Wanted
It took quite some time for the rapper to become an overnight success
By Jeff Weiss

The Confounding, Inexplicable Splendor of Rapper Future
Space is the place
By Rob Harvilla

Pazz & Jop: Taylor Swift, Grimes, and Lana Del Rey: The Year in Blond Ambition
How dare they have an image
By Jessica Hopper

You Don't Know Jack (White)
After a dozen years in the public eye, the man proves he can still surprise us
By Alan Light

Riff Raff Is Keeping It Surreal
He's believable as a hip-hop star because nothing he says is true
By Ben Westhoff

Travel Tips From Touring Bands
By Kiernan Maletsky

A Note on Crap
True art lives where no one is paying attention. Or probably not.
By David Thorpe


Top 40 Albums
The year's big albums, from Frank Ocean on down

Top 42 Singles
"Call Me Maybe" kicks off the top of the pops

Pazz & Jop Comments
The who, the what, the where, and the why, why, why

The Top 25 Album Covers
A lovingly hand-assembled gallery

Tabulation Notes
Weak consensus versus inspiring diversity
By Glenn McDonald

But good kid, m.A.A.d city supplies its own philosophy of sin and salvation. The script and sound are original—new testament to the immutability of old ideas. It is Compton scared straight.

« Previous Page
New York Concert Tickets

Concert Calendar

  • May
  • Fri
  • Sat
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed
  • Thu