Compton MC Kendrick Lamar’s first official full-length LP good kid, m.A.A.d city leaked recently, and it seems like a sure bet to cement Kendrick as this generation’s pre-eminent…well, you don’t want to reduce him to being a “conscious” MC, but at the very least, the go-to thinking man’s rapper. That said, it’s hard to predict how much of a mainstream impact the album will have, as it’s not exactly packed with likely smashes—the whole thing is (unsurprisingly) more meditative than club-ready, headier than it is funky. Its best shot at a crossover hit is likely “Poetic Justice,” which packs the album’s most high-profile guest, most pop-proven sample and, uh, most inarguable subject matter.
With Young Money superstar and Club Paradise tourmate Drake backing him up, “Poetic Justice” is kind of like Kendrick’s attempt at a “Lotus Flower Bomb,” a seductive slow jam looking to open up Kendrick’s audience to the ladies a little. (The opening line to Kendrick’s first verse is even explicitly perfume-related, driving the point of comparison home.) It’s less icky than “Flower Bomb” almost by sheer virtue of not being rapped by Wale, and though loverman isn’t exactly Kendrick’s most natural look, he makes it his own, framing the song as him writing a love poem, repeatedly concluding “love is not just a verb” and assuring “breathe slow, you’ll find gold mines in these lines.” It’s not totally coherent, but it works well enough.
The strength of the song comes not from its lyrics, anyway, but from its feel and mood, both of which are mostly provided by producer Scoop DeVille’s inspired choice of sample: Janet Jackson’s “Any Time, Any Place,” the song that gave new meaning to the term “slow jam” in the mid-’90s and which permanently destroyed any remaining notions that Janet was still a good girl that just wanted to Wait a While. “Any Time” remains one of the all-time great pop mood-setters, and as cleverly chopped up by DeVille, it makes just about everything Kendrick and Drake say sound impossibly intimate, sensitive and romantic, even when Drizzy is talking about big asses in sundresses.
If the song inspires a rush of late-night Netflixings of Poetic Justice (starring Janet as Maya Angelou, in case the connection wasn’t clear), we wouldn’t be hugely surprised. We’ll set a DV-R alert just in case.