As part of the build-up to Kendrick Lamar’s new project, the Underground Flux will present KENDRICK WEEK for the next 7 days (March 31 to April 7). A special focus will be put on K-Dot during that time span. We hope you enjoy.
Compton-born rappers Kendrick Lamar and MC Eiht collaborate on “m.A.A.d City” to talk about crime in Compton and the struggles that come with living there.
The song kicks off with a chorus that turned to be a world-wide modern rap anthem. The verses “If Pirus and Crips all got along, they’d prolly gun me down by the end of this song” went viral and concerts were mind-blowing.
The chorus is a follow-up to the skit on the album’s previous track, “Poetic Justice.” In the song, the listener gets a conflict between Kendrick and two gangsters. The thugs are angry at Lamar for being in their part of town, so they confront him about it.
“I’m gon’ ask you one more time homie, where is you from? Or it is a problem”
[…]if he don’t tell where he come, it’s a wrap! I’m sorry”
“Hol’ up hol’ up hol’ up, we gon’ do it like this, OK? I’mma tell you where I’m from, OK? You gon’ tell me where you from, OK? Or where your Grandma stay, where your mama stay, or where your daddy stay, OK?”
The electrifying beat produced by Sounwave, consisting of quick violin notes over drums and a bass line, was one of the best things about “m.A.A.d City.” The song was spotless because the beat matched Kendrick’s subject matter about crime and violence. Its pacing also matched his energetic flow.
The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transferred. This was exactly what happened with Kendrick’s flow. That energy carried on and transformed into extremely clever lyrics with strong vocals. “m.A.A.d City” has arguably one of the most memorable rap verses of modern hip hop because of this richness.
In his first verse, Kendrick raps about the high criminal rates of Compton and the frequency of gang rivalry violence that occur.
“the driver seat the first one to get killed
Seen a light-skinned nigga with his brains blown out”
“we adapt to crime
Pack a van with four guns at a time, with the sliding door, fuck is up?
Fuck you shooting for if you ain’t walking up, you fucking punk?
[…]a wall of bullets coming from”
“You killed my cousin back in ’94, fuck your truce
Now crawl your head in that noose, you wind up dead on the news”
He discusses having witnessed someone getting killed and carrying guns even as a child. Kendrick also describes having to duck gun shots while with his family with the lines “AK’s, AR’s, Aye y’all, duck / that’s what momma said when we was eating the free lunch.”
With Compton’s murder rates being one of the highest in the United States, Kendrick takes the opportunity to describe the grim scenario with the verse “Bodies on top of bodies, IVs on top of IVs.”
In the second part of the song starting at 02:35, the subject matter stays the same but the beat alters. It turned into a more 80s type of rap instrumental because of the rhythm of the drums and the rusty samples used. Kendrick’s verse takes on a new path as he stops speaking in general terms of what happens in Compton, and starts sharing what has happened to him on a personal level. He shares a couple of frightening moments and the reason as to why he doesn’t smoke weed.
“Cocaine laced in marijuana
And they wonder why I rarely smoke now
Imagine if your first blunt had you foaming at the mouth”
“m.A.A.d City,” one of Kendrick’s best songs, is not only a lyrical masterpiece but also a conceptual gem in which Lamar reveals his past experiences in Compton. This aspect makes the song highly recommendable for those seeking to learn more about the city. He has also annotated some of his lines on Genius explaining the meaning behind his lyrics.