The Rundown: Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city
Kendrick Lamar transitions from the album's emotional depths to this triumphant hometown anthem, a gut-punching exclamation point. With Just Blaze providing gargantuan drums, vocoder solos and key changes, the song matches the epic bombast that defined past Aftermath releases (Eminem, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Game); otherwise, this album is undoubtedly the most subtle and understated the label's ever dropped. Dre delivers an awesome verse, obviously written by Kendrick, perfectly, and there's surprising chemistry between the two. The song confirms the point the album's been making all along—that Kendrick is indeed the new torchbearer for his city's rap legacy, from N.W.A. to Snoop to Game. Disregard the inconsistent bonus tracks that follow on the deluxe version: This is how you close out an excellent album, arguably the best rap release of the year so far.
(Photos from left: Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup, John Sciulli/Getty Images for Clear Channel)