A few days ago, when we/NPR Music asked you all out there on the internet which songs or artists were getting you through the winter, a couple of you mentioned Kendrick Lamar and his new album Good kid m.A.A.d. city. So, for your weekend reading, a long exploration (but one well-worth reading) in the L.A. Review of Books of Lamar and hip hop and memoir and Toni Morrison and David Foster Wallace and opportunity in the United States today.
Kendrick Lamar is close enough to Watts in proximity to understand its despair, close enough to the civil disobedience of the 1992 riots to understand their rage, to understand that there is no exit. He is young enough to idolize the golden age of hip-hop, innocent enough to engage in shameless hero worship, a fan enough to put Mary J. Blige and MC Eiht on his album. But he is also old enough to know that nobody followed Tupac’s body to the morgue. That a bullet fractured one of Tupac’s fingers, fingers often used to so brazenly flip off the world. Lamar is wise enough to know that, in hip-hop, the jig is up on a lot of things (overstated capitalism, the battering of women), and he isn’t flashy — he calls himself the black hippie. His abundance is his talent. And yet, because of his murdered uncle, his fretful grandmother, and the gang-raped girl whose voice he occupies in the same way De La Soul did Millie’s, Lamar is not just a wandering preacher in town to be angry at the locals and their chaos.