This week on Tracking––a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year (you can check out the official list as the year progresses)––you can listen to additions from Kendrick Lamar, Tame Impala, Grizzly Bear, How To Dress Well, AlunaGeorge, Crystal Castles and Sky Ferreira.
(Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)
Kendrick Lamar – “The Art of Peer Pressure” (1 of 7)
Kendrick Lamar is in the upper echelon of rappers working today. Him and his Top Dawg affiliates are constantly reinventing themselves and subverting expectations. Case in point, Lamar is fresh off releasing one of the year’s heaviest bangers in “Westside, Right on Time” and now he comes with “The Art of Peer Pressure,” a heady and contemplative story track. Kendrick’s rapid-fire wordplay is, in this case, replaced by a silky smooth flow that seems to drip off the bass line. He tells the story of him and his friends driving around in a white Toyota, smoking blunts, and pestering full-bodied women. What would normally be a stale topic for a rap song comes alive on “The Art of Peer Pressure,” as Kendrick uses vivid imagery and a well crafted lyrical approach to subtly comment on the psychology of peer pressure. He raps about how being with his friends makes him more inclined toward mischief (i.e. getting high, starting fights) and that’s all well and good, but things quickly get a little out of hand. They pull up to rob a house and “the sun is going down, as they take whatever [they] want.” Kendrick hops out the back window and the getaway car “makes a right, then a left, then a right,” but ultimately they are “just circling life.” On its surface, “The Art of Peer Pressure” is a classic gang-does-whatever-it-wants rap tune (and there are plenty of those that are fundamental to the genre) but the final few bars make clear that Kendrick laments these nights of misguided machismo more so than he celebrates them. He says that him and his friends “try to conquer the city with disobedience/ quick to turn it up even if we ain’t got the CD in/ but Jeezy is still playin/ and our attitude is still “Nigga, what is you sayin?” It’s an extremely well crafted line from a rapper that only gets better by the day. At this rate, good kid, m.A.A.d city is positioned to be the best rap album of the year.