*** out of 4
Close to the release of Kendrick Lamar's debut album, "good kid m.A.A.d city," and we get the newest single and apparent crown jewel, "Compton," bearing local rap titan and Kendrick mentor Dr. Dre, named for their shared stomping ground.
That similarity exposes the differences between two artists on starkly different sides of hip-hop's generational divide, one man a titan of a golden era and the other inspiring anointments as rap's redemption. While Dre has spent the last decade being the game's most enigmatic and expensive co-sign, teasing a magnum opus that will probably never arrive ("Detox"), Lamar has been honing his craft, emphatically reinstating a coast that's been floundering since another former Dr. Dre protege The Game started falling.
And he does not disappoint. The Just Blaze beat they take over is sort of odd for an explicitly West Coast track, with some old school horns and a plodding, boom-bap sound. Kendrick goes in immediately, tongue slicing through alliteration and hyper-dense wordplay like a katana: "King Kendrick and I meant it, my point intended is raw/ Fix your lenses forensics would've told you Kendrick had killed it." Dre actually sounds more alive than he has in years, explicitly "passing the torch" at one point.
So somewhere between another plug for Dre Beats and Kendrick's misleading exit line, "This was brought to you by Dre," it becomes apparent that the student has usurped the master, that King Kendrick is the reason you're here and not the D.R.E.'s name in the feature.
A "California Love"-esque coda brings it all home, again tying Kendrick to Compton, not as Dre's protege, but as a fully fledged star of his own, whose debut is seeming like it might live up to its messiah-like expectations.
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