Decrypting m.A.A.d City. by Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar is one of the most iconic west coast rappers of modern day. Kendrick’s second studio album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, is the making of Kendrick Lamar. These stories are based around Kendrick’s home city, Compton, California. The struggle with poverty, gang violence, and drug use. This description may sound like every rap song, but Lamar doesn’t glorify his past and the experiences he has gone through, but bring the listener back in time and explains what happened and how it influenced him into the man he is today.

Good Kid m.A.A.d City by Kendrick Lamar is a story showing the reality of Kendrick’s coming of age and the results of growing up in Compton.

According to Genius, Kendrick starts out the song with the realization that, after ‘exposing’ his gangster lifestyle, these two rival gangs, Piru bloods and Compton Crips, would put aside their differences because of Kendrick disrespect to their lifestyle.

If Pirus and Crips all got along
They’d probably gun me down by the end of this song
Seem like the whole city go against me
Every time I’m in the street, I hear—
Yawk! Yawk! Yawk! Yawk!

*At the end of the intro, ’Yawk! Yawk! Yawk! Yawk!’ represents the magnitude of gun violence that has occurred in Kendrick’s neighborhood. This part is said by Schoolboy Q, who
Was once a Hoover Crip and has used this ad lib in other songs such as “Unnecessary” by Childish Gambino.

Throughout the album, Kendrick goes from place to place throughout his daily life. One recurring theme on the album is meeting up with Sherane, Kendrick’s high school fling.

Man down, where you from, n***a?
F**k who you know—where you from, my n***a?
Where your grandma stay, huh, my n***a?
This m.A.A.d city I run, my n***a

*Kendrick is pulled over by two men, who ask him about where he is from. This is important because they don’t ask him why he is there or who he is going to see, but where his grandma lives. If she is from a neighborhood that they don’t like, therefore he is an enemy and will be the “man down.”

This is not a rap on how I’m slingin’ crack or move cocaine
This is cul-de-sac and plenty Cognac and major pain

*Kendrick makes the point very clear that his story is not glorifying drugs and violence, but showing how these influence the youth, such as they influenced Kendrick. Kenny includes cognac in this line to point out the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Seen a light-skinned n***a with his brains blown out
At the same burger stand where *beep* hang out
Now this is not a tape recorder sayin’ that he did it
But ever since that day, I was lookin’ at him different
That was back when I was nine, Joey packed the nine
Pakistan on every porch is fine, we adapt to crime
Pack a van with four guns at a time
With the sliding door, f**k is up?

*As Kendrick continues to describe the violence he has faced, it shows the insanity that 9-year-olds are being exposed first handily to such violence. Kendrick explains that he bleeps out the name of the shooters in order to protect those close to him and shows the credibility to his stories. The next line is evident when Kendrick compares gang violence in Compton to war zones in Pakistan. After years of exposure to violence and crime, Kendrick and his crew have adapted to the lifestyle. One way they have adapted to this lifestyle is the fact that they always ride around with guns.

Now crawl your head in that noose
You wind up dead on the news
Ain’t no peace treaty, just piecin’ BGs up to pre-approve
Bodies on top of bodies, IVs on top of IVs

*Kendrick recommends that his enemies give up now, so they don’t have to experience Kendrick wrath on them. Choosing the wording noose connects with the negative contentions towards the civil rights movement. This then points to the idea that black on black violence is taking a step backward in the civil rights movement, by doing the “bigots work”.
Kendrick juxtaposes “peace” with “pieces”, disregarding truces and threatening with Pieces(guns). BG’s or baby Gangsters with lower rank that must get pre-approved from the OG’s or Original Gangsters for their killings.
Bodies on top of bodies is a graphic line, but explains the magnitude of death from gun and gang violence. IV’s on top of IVs has several meanings, IVs are used to get fluids into the bloodstream such as gun shot victims. This is another way Kendrick explains the extent of violence and death.

When you hop on that trolley, make sure your color’s correct
Make sure you’re corporate or they’ll be callin’ your mother collect
They say the governor collect all of our taxes, except
When we in traffic and tragic happens, that shit ain’t no threat

*Kendrick continues to discuss the fear of gangs while in Compton. LA has a trolley system that covers the entire city, meaning it crosses different territory lines who are controlled by crips or bloods. If you are caught wearing the wrong color in the wrong place, then things will turn violent. Kendrick discontinues to explain this concept by saying you must be in line with the Territory you are in. “They’ll be callin your mother collect.” This is a double entendre explaining the call your mother will get to collect the remains as well as a collect call which is a call from prison. With a play on words, Kendrick then brings up the idea that the only two things that are constant are taxes and death. People living in Compton pay their taxes but don’t seek any government benefits like safety. Taxes are only exempt when you die, when things like drive by shootings, or carjacking happen those who are killed are added to the lift of people are names are added to a list who can’t be taxed anymore.

You movin’ backwards if you suggest that you sleep with a TEC
Go buy a chopper and have a doctor on speed dial, I guess
M.A.A.d. City

*Carrying a gun as protection is common in violent ridden areas, The problem with having a gun to protect yourself is the fact that you will use it, escalating the situation more. Kendrick warns the listener that having a gun will create more problems than fix. The irony in this line is one who has a TEC 9 (A semiautomatic pistol) is not safe as these guns are very common. Having a chopper (AK-47) is the only way to full protect yourself. It’s a “Catch-22” which means owning a chopper can get you killed but without it, you are already dead.

My pops said I needed a job, I thought I believed him
Security guard for a month and ended up leavin’
In fact, I got fired, ’cause I was inspired by all of my friends
To stage a robbery the third Saturday I clocked in

*During Kendrick’s second verse, he explains the impact his friends have on him. When his dad told him to get a job, the first thing Kendrick and his friends thought of was to rob the truck he worked at. Another example of this is a song off the album, called The Art of Peer Pressure, which talks about how he is generally a peaceful kid, but growing up in that type of environment has certain effects on Kendrick’s early life.

Projects tore up, gang signs get thrown up

*This first line doesn’t stand out at first glance, but when looking deeper into what Kendrick is rapping, you can see a big issue that is prevalent today. This line means the poor on poor violence is creating death and terrorizing these communities, while these efforts could be put towards changing the system for the better. Kendrick talks bout this issue in another track off the album called Black Boy Fly.

When two n****s making it out had never sounded logical?
Three n****s making it out? That’s mission impossible

Cocaine laced in marijuana
And they wonder why I rarely smoke now
Imagine if your first blunt had you foamin’ at the mouth
I was straight tweakin’,

*This verse includes insights of Kendrick’s past regarding drugs. While it says cocaine, phencyclidine or PCP(Angel dust)is the actual drug that Kendrick encountered growing up which has effected him to this day. It is also important to point out that M.A.A.D city has two meanings, My Angry Adolescence divided as well as My Angles on Angle Dust.

You know the reasons but still will never know my life
Kendrick a.k.a. “Compton’s Human Sacrifice”

*Kendrick ends his verse makes it clear to the listener that despite you knowing the reasoning for his past and how he is today, you will never full understand what Kendrick has gone through. Kendrick explains this in a 2013 interview with Erykah Badu, saying

“Probably one of the hardest things to do was actually do something coming from that space…… So I felt like that was the sacrifice for me to come out of that and do something positive,”

*Information from this article was sourced from who worked with Lamar to gather these details.