It's easy to be sceptical of yet another young rapper being hyped beyond belief, but Kendrick Lamar comes with some serious credentials. The 25-year-old was born and raised in Compton, the home of gangster rap; he's already got an acclaimed album under his belt in last year's iTunes-only release Section.80 and he has friends in high places, including Snoop Dogg and Game. But the rapper's biggest claim to fame is getting the rare blessing of reclusive hip-hop guru Dr Dre, who mentors Lamar, executive produces and guest-stars on two standout tracks on his major label debut.
The spirit of 90s gangster rap flows through good kid, m.A.A.d city, which comes with the kind of lush, widescreen production of a Kanye West record, especially on standouts like the bruising thump of Backstreet Freestyle, and hot singles The Recipe and Swimming Pools (Drank). But it's Lamar's chameleon-like ability to match his voice to each track's beats and their often weighty subject matter that really stands out. On album centrepiece M.A.A.D city he veers between a nursery rhyme croon and a Lil Wayne-style rasp with ease.
The only dodgy moment comes courtesy of the Neptunes on the out-of-place lightweight R&B whine of Good Kid, but Lamar proves he's the complete package on this near-classic. Best of all, he'll be performing in New Zealand in December. Don't miss it.
Verdict: Hyped rapper delivers the goods