• February 237 Earth-like planets discovered orbiting star 39 light-years from Earth

  • February 4Edison takes 2nd place at Fresno County Academic Decathlon

M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative

Rap artist Kendrick Lamar sparks social conversation with songs depicting the “other side” of racial stereotypes

Jenelle Carlin, Editorial Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Rap music, now more popular than ever in our youth culture, can be understood from contrasting perspectives. To an adolescent or young adult who follows the genre, it is some of the best music out there. To others, possibly older, it is no more than a medley of misogynistic statements, racial slurs, and other inappropriate topics. While it is true that some rap artists embrace topics such as drugs, alcohol, sex, and gang-related violence in their music, that cannot be said of every artist in the category.

Take Kendrick Lamar, for example. This popular rap musician has demonstrated the positive social influence rap music can have. In dealing with topics of gang violence, drugs, and racial profiling by police in “ghetto” neighborhoods, his 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d. city has proven to be one of the best examples of such social influence through inspiring conversations about race relations, police brutality, and stereotypes.

Perhaps the most influential song on the entire album, “good kid” takes the listener through the young adolescent life of Kendrick (K. Dot) as he struggles through life in a bad neighborhood and attempts to make it out of the hood in pursuit of a better life.  The song kicks off by depicting the immediate aftermath of K. Dot getting jumped by two guys in hoodies (as told at the end of the previous track, “Poetic Justice”)— “Trapped inside your desire to fire bullets that stray. Track attire just tell you I’m tired and ran away…I got ate alive yesterday.” This sets off the album’s theme of realization, ultimately steeling Kendrick’s resolve to get out of the hood.

The song analyzes the life of a good kid being stereotyped because of his skin and the neighborhood he lives in. In using lyrics such as “…what am I ‘posed to do when the topic is red or blue and you understand that I ain’t?” Kendrick highlights the ever-present need to “pick a side” (Blood or Crips) in a neighborhood laced with gang violence. Despite this negative environment, Kendrick repeatedly displays his “good kid” behavior in lyrics such as “No better picture to paint than me walkin’ from bible study.” and “Me jumpin’ off of the roof is me just playin’ it safe.” which are designed to highlight how different he is from the people in his neighborhood.

The second verse goes a step further in displaying the effects racial profiling and neighborhoods play in police incidents. He starts by following the police officer stereotype that they are “just there to help” in saying, “Finding me by myself, promise me you can help.” He follows up in the second verse by pointing out the truth behind such statements in reference to gang-prone neighborhoods— “You had finally made decision to hold me against my will…Every time you clock in the morning, I feel you just want to kill all my innocence while ignoring my purpose to persevere as a better person.” He uses such juxtaposing statements back to back to highlight the realities of racial profiling in police encounters; despite being a good kid trying to better himself, he is immediately seen as a threat to law enforcement. One of the best lyrics to prove this follow, stating, “And you ask, ‘Lift up your shirt’ to put me though gang files, but that don’t matter because the matter is racial profile.” Despite being an innocent kid minding his own business, K. Dot is stereotyped as a thug, and police immediately attempt to detect any evidence of gang-relation in an effort to justify their otherwise racist actions towards him.

In both verse one and verse two, Kendrick uses a similar repetition designed to emphasize the two main struggles faced by a good kid in the hood; gang violence and police brutality. In verse one, he closes with the lyrics, “Step on my neck and get blood on your Nike checks, I don’t mind ‘cause one day you’ll respect the good kid, m.A.A.d. city.” which emphasizes gang violence towards non-conformers in neighborhoods like the one depicted in the song. Similarly, verse two closes with “Step on his neck as hard as your bullet proof vest. He don’t mind, he know we’ll never respect the good kid, m.A.A.d. city.” which highlights police brutality based on racial stereotypes rather than legitimate crime. Verse three ends on a similar note, in that in rhymes with the other two closings, but does not follow the same pattern of repetition. The final lines read, “Don’t mind, cause now you ever in debt to good kid, m.A.A.d. city.” implying that those who once criticized and belittled K. Dot are now stuck on the same hamster wheel while he makes a life for himself outside of the realms of the hood.

Verse three focuses on another struggle faced by K. Dot in the hood; gang culture influence. He mentions drugs, money, and the imbalance of the culture. In lines like, “20’s, Xanies, and these ‘shrooms. Grown-up candy for pain, can we live in a sane society.” he refers to drugs as an illusion to escape reality and the struggles they face on a daily basis. He goes on to mention “You hired me as a victim, I quietly hope for change.” stating that his lack of conformity to the culture establishes him as a visual representation of the struggles within the hood, yet nothing changes.

He goes on to mention how this lack of conformity has led him to rely on money and drugs because “”I feel [there’s] nothing to lose” in lyrics such as “When violence is the rhythm, inspired me to obtain the silence in this room with 20’s, Xanies and ‘shrooms.” The second to last lyric best highlights, however, the true path of K. Dot, despite the hardships faced by his racial background and the stereotypes associated with it as well as the gang violence and culture that exists in his neighborhood— “The streets sure to release the worst side of my best.” Despite the seemingly endless struggles he faces, he refuses to stray from his path to greatness (the worst side of my best).

The running hook in this song, however, likely poses the greatest summary of K. Dot’s realities; “Mass hallucinations” (drugs) “Ill education” (hood/gang culture) “Want to reconnect with your elations” (aspirations to rise above the hood stereotypes), “This is your station” (implying he is going to highlight just how he did that because he, too, is a “good kid” in a m.A.A.d. city).  Obviously, this is easier said than done, which Kendrick proves as he delves into the negative effects of gang-culture and racial profiling.

Kendrick Lamar is a good kid living in a mad city (Compton, CA). The tensions he encounters as a result of not being affiliated with a particular gang his whole adolescent life despite living in a city that is so immersed with gang culture are a central theme of the album, and thus, a central theme of Kendrick’s childhood. Kendrick has since, in interviews, explained the acronym m.A.A.d. to mean either “my Angry Adolescence divided” or “made me an Angel on Angel dust” (the last lines in the final track “m.A.A.d. city”).

Despite stereotypes surrounding rap music as overtly misogynistic, racist, inappropriate, or just outright scandalous, Kendrick Lamar has demonstrated through his track “good kid” that not all rappers follow such clichés. An interesting note, the song “good kid” is the only one on the album with no expletives or sexual lyrics, thus further solidifying the ideal of a good kid who widely juxtaposes the culture of his surroundings. This particular song (despite being extremely underrated), and the album as a whole have effectively showcased the potential rap music holds to highlight legitimate struggles faced by minorities on a daily basis, as well as those who attempt to break free of society’s stereotypes. The entire album centers on this ideal, and the songs following “good kid” continue the same narrative in an attempt to bring awareness to said struggles.

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative

    Arts and Entertainment

    A sneak peak into the spring play

  • M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative

    News

    Superintendent Michael Hanson announces resignation

  • M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative

    News

    Edison gives thanks for teachers with the giving tree

  • M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative

    Editorials

    The Fault in Our Stairs: Why the “W” Building should change

  • M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative

    Features

    African American Student Leadership Conference comes to Fresno

  • M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative

    News

    UC tution hike causes controversy among students

  • M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative

    Features

    Edison students speak out during Black History Month

  • M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative

    Arts and Entertainment

    “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” is the final flop in the series

  • M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative

    Editorials

    Edison Students suffer without the benefits of nap time

  • M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative

    Editorials

    Pathway exclusivity fails to encompass various college majors

M.A.A.D City sheds light on the other side of rap’s narrative