Kendrick Lamar

Critics' pick
Photograph: Dan Monick
Kendrick Lamar

Since the release of Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city almost a year ago, the accolades haven’t ebbed. Lamar’s sophomore effort—a lucid inquest into how the now-26-year-old L.A. lyricist emerged from post-crack Compton a sagacious seer—isn’t just the superlative rap album of recent memory; it’s one of the best in the canon, period.

In “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” a rich narrative roulette, the rapper eschews bathos to evoke a gangbanger and prostitute whose murders he witnessed, from the perspectives of their siblings. Lamar later clarifies that these pivotal moments drove him to speak out openly, to help halt the negative cycle.

The MC’s recent combustible verse on Big Sean’s “Control,” in which he lit into fellow notables and proclaimed himself “King of New York,” sparked a Twitter melee. Arguing the plausibility of his brazen claim is beside the point; what’s important is the impassioned response it elicited from the genre’s brightest stars. When Lamar hits Williamsburg Park this week with Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Bishop Nehru, he’ll need more fuel than ever to lift his inspired syntactical flights through the stratosphere of expectations.—Ian Gibbs

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