Kendrick Got Robbed at the Grammys

I love Christian commentary on all of the big awards shows. I’m serious, I really do. I’m not a huge fan of the deeply theological assessments but I do enjoy the witty tweets and one liners on Facebook. This year the Grammys generated some really witty tweets and one liners.

Church Curmudgeon:

I must say, the #GRAMMYs did put up a powerful argument against intelligent design.

So. Do you STILL want to engage the culture?

Fake J.D. Greear speaking of Lorde:

It’s good to see that girl from Addams Family has made something of herself. #grammys

So let me add my two cents to the conversation. My usual modus operandi is to make some theological commentary, but today I’m going to do something I have never done before…

I have done literary criticism on this blog and I have done film criticism, but today I am going to take a shot at music criticism. Specifically I am looking at the categories that both Macklemore and Kendrick Lamar were nominated. Here is my personal opinion (apparently its Macklemore’s opinion too):

Kendrick Lamar got robbed.

Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore were both nominated for album of the year. Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore were both nominated for new artist of the year. Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore were both nominated for rap album of the year. Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore were both nominated for best rap performance. Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore were both nominated for best rap song.

Kendrick Lamar did not win in any of those categories.

Now I know that Kendrick wasn’t going to win all of those. But the fact that he didn’t win any of those is an outrage. Everybody is talking about Kendrick. He has even gotten critical acclaim from the Christian Rap Blog – Rapzilla:

“Kendrick Lamar’s new album, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”, is brilliant, period.”

“Lyrically, dude is a beast and if you hear people talking about the “new Nas” it’s for a reason.”

“The Truth is: “Good Kid” and “Real” (both KL songs) are both more creative and spirit-filled than most of what I’ve heard from CHH (Christian hip Hop) this year.”

Even Lecrae has praise for him. A collaboration between Kendrick and Lecrae is currently in the works. The Respect runs both ways!

Now let me explain to you why good Kid. m.A.Ad city is so darn good.

Good Kid - Maad City

  1. First you have to understand what the album is, if you take each song on its own its easy to deplore it as a typical gangsta rap album, but good Kid. m.A.Ad city is actually what we call a “concept album.” In other words its an album that has one single theme or tells one unified/multilayered story. How many rappers put out concept albums? I challenge you to find one.
  2. Second, he captures the intricacies of real life. People aren’t flat out as bad as you can get, yet nobody is a saint either. Kendrick understands that human beings are extremely complex creatures with complex and often contradictory desires. He is aware of this truth in himself and in the people around him. On one song he says “I am a sinner, who’s probably going to sin again.” He says he is a “good” kid in a “maad” city. He understands why kids enter gangs. He understands why young girls are forced into prostitution. In essence he knows that the people we often label as “bad” or “evil” have been placed there, often unwillingly, by life’s circumstances.
  3. Third. Musically the album is tight. Great production, it was Dr. Dre who produced it. The mix is clean and crisp. Lyrics are insightful and witty.
  4. Fourth. He is a flat out a great rapper. People like the folks at MTV and radio personalities like Big Boy are calling him the best lyrical rapper out there right now. And don’t even get me started on his flow. It is insane. Did you see his collaboration with Imagine Dragons at the Grammys?
  5. He isn’t afraid to talk about things that are real for the people around him. While the Grammy’s are praising Macklemore for his “boldness” (aka what the people who run the grammys actually want to hear) Kendrick is rapping about the realities of life that people don’t want to hear about. People don’t want to hear about poverty, they don’t want to hear about how alchohol and partying is often done in an effort to numb the pain inside, they don’t want to hear about how destructive drug dealing can be, how 15 year old girls are forced onto the streets to help their families, how young girls are taken advantage of by family members, and more importantly that God can change a person’s life.  For instance take how he opens up  the album, he opens it up with a group of young guys saying a sinner’s prayer, putting their faith in Jesus. Who does that on a gangsta rap album? Listen to some of the songs, listen to the first and second parts of “Sing about me,” listen to “Real” and listen some of his older stuff like “No Makeup,” “Tammy’s Song,” “Keisha’s Song” all of these songs expose the idols of our hearts and boy are our idols ugly. Rap could use more people like Kendrick who aren’t afraid to talk about these sorts of things.

Those are just a few reasons why good Kid. m.A.Ad city is so good, but the best way to understand why this album is so great is to dive into the story that Kendrick tells throughout the album. In essence the album is an enthnographic report of what it looks like to live as a kid from a “good” home in a city filled with violence, sex, and hate. Neither gloryfing the “good” part nor the “mad” part. Kendrick shows the audience what life in Compton is really like. Life isn’t as horrible as the sort of life portrayed in Gangsta rap, but its not rosy either.  You can tell that this is the sort of message he is trying to portray, that’s why you get characters as diverse as youth pastors, devout grandmas, moralistic mothers, responsible fathers, good kids gone bad, prostitutes, sluts, gang banggers, drug deals, and kids trying to party.

Next time I will dive into exploring the album song by song.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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