Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Good Kid M.A.A.D City’ Continues To Give Voice To The Traumatized — And Offer Catharsis

Contributing Writer
10.31.17 3 Comments

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When you get a call like that it doesn’t seem real. You don’t know how to react because it feels like a practical joke and you’re waiting for the “Gotcha!” moment at the end when you both burst into laughter.

“Nicole got shot. It doesn’t look good.”

My sister couldn’t possibly be calling me to tell me my youngest sister had been shot, right? There’s no way this was real.

Except it was.

Nicole was in dire straits after being shot under shady circumstances. She’d remained conscious long enough to knock on a neighbor’s door and ask for help, then later told the responding paramedics what had happened. After that, Nicole went unconscious, her heart stopped and she had to be revived, several times. She’d gone too long without oxygen to her brain and it was decided there wasn’t much that could be done. After several heart-wrenching days of watching machines keep her alive, we made the decision to shut them off and accept her fate, as a family.

Nicole was less than three months away from her 20th birthday.

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Kendrick Lamar makes songs about people like Nicole.

Kendrick structured Good Kid M.A.A.D City like a film, with scenes playing out in skits and on records, creating a narrative of a day gone awry. It was essentially Boyz N The Hood the album. Kendrick is the Good Kid, finding a way to survive in a mad city, an avatar for so many that have come before him and lived through that exact existence in neighborhoods where the question “Where you from?” comes with deadly consequences.

For over an hour Kendrick told the story of every Good Kid who answered that faithful question with some variation of “I don’t bang,” or some other verbiage that explains that they aren’t looking for trouble. Kendrick is affiliated, by friendship, by family, by his geographical location but he’s not as knee deep in the life surrounding him as his friends. He explains it all succinctly with one half bar.

“I’m like Tre, that’s Cuba Gooding.”

Tre is, of course, the main character in Boyz N The Hood, who ultimately decides to opt out of a fateful ride to get revenge for his friend who had been killed hours earlier. Tre is the outlier, the teenager in South Central headed to college, the one brave enough to ask out of the car, brave enough to go against the grain and try to stay on the straight and narrow.

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