Today’s Sounds: Kendrick Lamar

Does the new LP by Kendrick Lamar really live up to the hype? Plus a new single by transatlantic act Oh Minnows and a video by A Place to Bury Strangers wherein tons of kids’ toys get destroyed. Pyromaniacs, welcome.


Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

His name may bring to mind R&B schmaltz-oozers like Montell Jordan or Jermaine Dupri, but make no mistake: this right here is Compton, baby, like it ain’t been heard from in a minute.

Snippets had ’em raving on social media and singles had ’em raving on club dancefloors, and when Lamar’s studio debut LP leaked late last week, it wasn’t long before the hip hop world fell to its knees.

Has the hype been fair? Lamar’s giveaway street album Section.80 impressed fans and critics last year, and his slew of mixtapes consistently bang hard, slipping his name into to the golden Rolodex of hip hop’s consciousness one head at a time.

Admittedly, the skeptic in me wonders if the adulation Lamar receives in an era of flash-in-the-pan Internet fame is healthy for any artist, much less one as talented as he. Might he become taken for granted faster than he can establish himself as an upper-echelon brand name in contemporary rap? And if not, what separates him from the herd? What is it about him that can make a rapper of Common’s calibre look like an excitable schoolgirl in his presence?

Well, it can now be revealed that the album is hands-down smashing, end-to-end, no filler and no chaser required. The only flaw I can find with it is that it may prove damn near impossible to follow – that, and that occasionally Lamar’s vocal tones and flow patterns are a little too reminiscent of a Kanye/Lupe production.

It’s pretty easy to forgive. I’m gonna go ahead and say that this record is Illmatic-level amazing. Never have so many individual producers (including Boy1da, Pharrell, Scoop DeVille, Just Blaze and many more) sounded so cohesive on a solo artist record, and really, you’ll have to hear it to believe it. There are three different digital deluxe versions, and apparently I have the “Spotify” version, which includes an extra song featuring Dr. Dre, who also guests on a “regular” version cut.

Sonically, there has simply been nothing else like this in hip hop. What Lamar accomplishes here, if it can be boiled down to one particular achievement, is a marriage of West Coast chilling and East Coast anger, as cheesy as that sounds. Again, you just gotta hear it. This is the best rap album of 2012. There, I said it.


Oh Minnows, “Hurry”

NYC-based musician Chris Steele-Nicholson is Oh Minnows, and a specialist in dreamy synth-pop plundered from the palettes of a stack of ’80s bands. His debut album For Shadows came out in North America last week (over a year after the U.K. release), but this is a non-LP single, out on his U.K. label Young and Lost Club on Nov. 5.
Hurry by Oh Minnows by Nadia Young & Lost Club


A Place to Bury Strangers, “And I’m Up”

Directed by the singer’s brother Karl Ackermann, the latest video by these Brooklyn-based shoegaze-rockers (from their latest LP, Worship, on Dead Oceans) depicts an action figure demolition derby. There’s something so satisfying about watching all those toys smoke, smoulder and disintegrate in flames. (See A Place to Bury Strangers at la Sala Rossa next month, part of the M for Montreal festival.)

Leave a Reply