For many, good kid, m.A.A.d. city was their entry point to Kendrick Lamar, and it was one of the greatest revelations in hip-hop this decade. Tracks such as “Money Trees” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” pare the vulnerability and earned spirituality of a trauma survivor with the heft of a master technician, while his intricate raps carry a conceptual framework that revealed the full weight of the post-millennial American collapse—the dead homies, the dead-end jobs, the deadened interpersonal relationships.
Released one week before that album dropped, and in conjunction with this “making of” article published by Complex, this playlist—in Kendrick’s own words—captures “some of the records that inspire me to this day.” It’s predictably diverse. The first two tracks veer from the hardscrabble pathos of DMX’s “Slippin’” (“I’m possessed by the darker side, livin’ the cruddy life”) to the haunting atmospheric grumbling of Portishead’s trip-hop trailblazer “Roads,” before eventually settling into the G-funk (DJ Quik’s “I Don’t Want to Party Wit U,” MC Eiht’s “Straight Up Menace”) that provided the soundtrack to Kendrick’s youth.
This playlist comes with a minor caveat: As of 2017, it contains only nine tracks. Probably, at some point, it contained more tracks; and, at some point in the future, it will contain fewer. Spotify either lost rights to certain tracks on the playlist, or else the labels redelivered them in different versions. This Dowsers is a site dedicated to looking at playlists as artistic/critical artifacts, and this is both one of that medium’s charm and vulnerabilities: It’s ephemeral, susceptible to the vagrancies of anonymous digital-music content-operation teams. Like graffiti—which is itself vulnerable to time, weather and gentrification—this doesn’t make it any less of an artform, but it’s important to understand.