A portrait of his upbringing in Compton, California, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city delivers consistently introspective tracks — like “Sherane” and “The Art of Peer Pressure” — with an assured flow that belies the artist’s 25 years. Throwaway club anthems, including “Poetic Justice” and “Compton,” can probably be chalked up to the album’s high-profile producers, who no doubt sought to meet executive producer Dr. Dre’s sales goals. At any rate, it’s clear that good kid, m.A.A.d. city is Lamar’s attempt to straddle the line between celebrating his present good fortune and examining the years he spent as a gangsta rapping young adult hooked on PCP. Listeners are left wondering whether the album glorifies thug life or deconstructs it with a consciousness that is largely lacking in mainstream hip-hop. Be sure to listen to “Backstreet Freestyle” and “m.A.A.d. city” to hear Lamar at his rawest and most unhinged.

—Trevor Abes

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