One of the most talked-about albums to come out this quarter is Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City by LA rapper Kendrick Lamar, released yesterday to almost universal critical acclaim. Lamar has far more star power than his close ties to underground rappers such as Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul would suggest. His set at this year’s Pitchfork festival had the Blue Stage crowd packed the tightest it got all weekend, and a visibly thrilled Lamar let his fans handle the vocals on most of the hooks, which they were happy to do. Lady Gaga made a special trip down to the festival just for his set, and spent it dancing and grinning from the side of the stage.
We’re going to have to wait another week to find out whether or not Good Kid is going to do Mumford & Sons numbers, but even considering all the critical praise, it seems unlikely—Lamar is currently trailing Taylor Swift in the iTunes store. His album’s second single, “Swimming Pools (Drank),” has been sitting in the lower half of the Hot 100 for the past nine weeks, though it deserves a much better spot. It’s a clever flip on the booze anthem that’s been a part of pop hip-hop ever since someone realized you could rhyme “bottles” with “models.” The first verse is given over to descriptions of the different types of alcohol abuse that Lamar has witnessed in his friends and family, and the chorus’s refrain—about diving into a swimming pool full of liquor—has an undertone of self-destruction that puts it at odds with the untold numbers of upbeat odes to getting “white boy wasted” that have made the charts in recent years. The song’s chopped-and-screwed R&B sound—which pairs nicely with the recent Jeremih mixtape—underlines that feeling in bold.