WE live in a world where rhetorics of something being timeless and classic are made with haste. Where loving something is akin to ass kissing and disliking it is associated with hate.
I remember six years ago today, when Kendrick Lamar’s album Good Kid M.A.A.D City came out, a lot of noise was made about this being a classic. And for once, the noise and the adoration around an album was valid. After years of it being released, I still feel the same way about it as I did in 2012. Good Kid M.A.A.D City sits up there with Hip Hop’s deity.
Lamar had already proved his worth in the game, with masterpiece mixtapes and a debut album, Section.80, but Good Kid M.A.A.D City is the album in which his gospel spread throughout the world as it was his major label debut after having signed with Aftermath and Interscop earlier in 2012. “I couldn’t tell you what type of sound or where I will be in the next five years as far as music…Back to the neighbourhood and going back in that same space where we use to be, got me inspired. So this album won’t sound like Section.80.” He said this in an interview with XXL prior to the album’s release.
If Section.80 was a young man sketching out his manhood through spirituality, society and everything in between, then Good Kid M.A.A.D City was a man with a tight grip on who he is, having made peace with his childhood and the evils of his youth.
His story telling refreshed Hip Hop, at a time when rappers weren’t painting beautiful pictures through their narrative. We hadn’t seen a conceptual album from someone in the commercial space in a minute. On the same album, he had a 12 minute song, Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst. That was and still remains a novelty. It was like listening to a conscious rapper such as Common, yet gangsta as Ice Cube, who raps with the exuberance and skill set of a Pharaohe Monch.
In the hype and height of promoting their new albums, most musicians will insist on how the project will be appreciated by various people, as a show of its diversity. But very few deliver on that promise. Good Kid M.A.A.D City was satisfying for the lyricist, rhyme scheme obsessed fan; enjoyable to someone who likes sing-alongs and catchy hooks and the production was neat and had sufficient bounce for a club. Money Trees with Jay Rock, Swimming Pools and Backstreet Freestyle are perfect examples.
This is the one and only Kendrick album that saw him work with Canadian superstar Drake, in Poetic Justice. The two complement each other pretty well, it’s a pity they never collaborated again because of subliminal shots they started serving each other on tracks, after Kendrick’s verse on Big Sean’s Control.
According to Acclaimed Music, a site which aggregates a number of critics’ lists from all over the world into all-time rankings, Good Kid M.A.A.D City was the most acclaimed album of 2012, the third most acclaimed of the 2010s and the 141st most acclaimed of all time.
The album earned five nominations at the 56th Grammy Awards but surprisingly and controversially Kendrick left empty handed, with Best Rap Album going to Macklemore-a result that caused revolt from fans who believed Kendrick was snubbed.
Accompanying the music, were hilarious skits on this album. Whether it was his mother leaving him voicemails on his phone, asking for the car simultaneously arguing with Kendrick’s dad about his fixation to dominos or conversations with friends after breaking into someone’s home.
Kendrick is a great artist who is very observant. In his last album DAMN, he had a track titled Duckworth, which tells the story of the connection between his father and his boss, Top Dawg that stretches far back as his childhood. That he never added that story to Good Kid M.A.A.D City says a lot about the reverence he has for his creative process. He’s a special artist of our time that’s way ahead of his time.
Every living human being has a soul. In each of us, there’s a something viewed as immortal and defining of our character and who we are. Now what I’m curious about, is whether we as society still think white people do not have soul?
All my life, I’ve observed the rhetoric that white people are lacking when it comes to soul. In the arts and even in sport. I grew up understanding that a white soccer player could not have the same rhythm and be pleasing to watch on the field as Doctor Khumalo or Steve Lekoelea. Yes, they played the beautiful game with more than just there’s limbs but also with soul.
The idea of black people being the gatekeepers of soulfulness stems from the 1950s in the US. Because of artists such Aretha Franklin, who recently demised, James Brown and Sam Cook whose music was highly emotive and equally spiritual. Soulful artists have the conviction of Gospel and the suave and agony of Rhythm and Blues. Most of their voices were moulded at a church somewhere. Incorporated with soul-food, you get a vivid idea that soul and black culture go hand-in-hand. Abo darkie are the archetypal of soul. But in the last few years we’ve seen a growing number Caucasians who have soul.
Tom Misch, JFK, Jamie Isaac, Mac Miller and Jordan Rakei- who will be performing at this year’s DSTV Delicious Festival- are talented artists changing the status quo. J.Cole touched on this in his track Fire Squad.
History repeats itself and thats just how it goes
Same way that these rappers always bite each others flows
Same thing that my nigga Elvis did with Rock n Roll
Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and then Macklemore
While silly niggas argue over who gone snatch the crown
Look around my nigga white people have snatched the sound
This year I’ll prolly go to the awards dappered down
Watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile
I’m just playin’, but all good jokes contain true shit
These are heavy lyrics by Cole which were misunderstood by the public when the song came out. But it leads one to the question, are white people truly snatching black culture? I believe as black people we don’t mind, when other races immerse themselves in our various and interesting cultures-we’re too sharing to be that petty.
What irks us most, is someone who does not give credit to those who created the culture which they love because it has given them so much. Black people want and need to be acknowledged for the great that they are.
It’s no secret that Elvis Presley was the counterfeit King of Rock ’n’ Roll while the original King was Chuck Berry and that Eminem is a great rapper but his whiteness has been a huge contributor to his success. It’s no problem when someone of Em’s stature gets love and recognition, but it was disappointing when someone who makes gibberish as Macklemore won a Hip Hop Grammy award instead of Kendrick Lamar.
But it was inevitable that things would be like this, since the world is getting smaller and is free of segregation, apartheid and other wack laws which made it difficult for people all over the world to exchange cultures. Should we as black people take offense that other races immerse themselves in black culture? Not at all, we should take pride in it. A case in point is South African music legend Johnny Clegg who made great Mbaqanga music, but could never be compared to one of the gods of the genre Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens. The latter were a collective of a black king and queens who made music for everyone but never, not for one second, lost touch with their blackness. They owned it…and were still cool with Mr Clegg enjoying some of it too.
The likes of RJ Benjamin and Kid Fonque are known for their inclination to music with soul, which people of their own race don’t often appreciate as darkies do. RJ Benjamin has proved time and time again with his albums, production and the people he’s worked with that he’s a soulful kat whose name you wouldn’t find on a line-up, next to Kurt Darren and Steve Hofmeyr. While Kid Fonque’s show alone, on 5FM would sit well on afropolitan radio station Kaya FM because it’s not limited to the generic electro sound that’s synonymous with white fellas and girls. But his House music is soul satisfying, not just focused on burning my calories on the dance floor.
I know black people who’ll say white people can have all the soul they want, including our dance moves, if they give us all their wealth. Fortunately things aren’t that simple. We cannot and should not sell ourselves, instead we should own our culture, share it with the rest of the world whilst finding ways to preserve it so that it doesn’t get gentrified and become something we can barely recognise.