N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton vs. Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. Which Is Better?

One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?

“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.

In the late ’80s, N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton branded Hub City on the face of the globe. In the early 2010s, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city showed what had changed (and what had not) in the 25 years since. Both of these iconic albums combined Gangsta Rap with greater commentary on gang life, peer pressures, and self-identity against a world with its own preconceived opinions of the Young Black Male in America. Notably, the earlier album was the coming out party for Dr. Dre’s game-changing production. In a lesser stated role, the later LP shows Dre’s same ear for talent and sequencing. These albums have so much in common, despite coming from different generations in Hip-Hop. Kendrick Lamar had just celebrated his first birthday when Straight Outta Compton was released—an album that would guide his career. In return, the 5-time Grammy Award-winner has seemingly brought unrivaled attention, not only to his city, but to the five men who immortalized it. Only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click (Click one then click “vote”).


Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.

“The World’s Most Dangerous Group” took Gangsta Rap to a new plateau with 1988’s Straight Outta Compton. N.W.A. (the working name for Niggaz Wit’ Attitude) accomplished plenty with their group debut. Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and MC Ren spoke out against systematic oppression—in their lexicon with “Fuck Tha Police.” Meanwhile, the sextet (counting DJ Yella and Arabian Prince, as on the album cover) urged First Amendment rights too on “Express Yourself.” But not everything on the Ruthless Records debut had deeper meaning. N.W.A. celebrated simply pissing off the moral majority on “Gangsta, Gangsta” and gave a firsthand account of a drug dealer’s perspective on “Dopeman (Remix).” The world (read: Compton) seemed to have a different set of circumstances and codes than much of election year America. Straight Outta Compton became a subversive op-ed to those living comfortably numb to the ghetto reality.

Straight Outta Compton endures not just because of what it said, but how it said it. N.W.A. was an arsenal of talent on the microphone, with Cube’s between-the-ribs jabs of hard truth, Ren’s ability to flip words in an unbreakable stride, and Eazy’s constant playing to the audience of taking it over the top. Dre was far from a slouch on the mic himself, though he and Yella arranged sounds in an unrivaled complexity for Hip-Hop. For as brash as N.W.A. may have seemed, the group showed a perfectionist dedication to their art. For those who related to N.W.A.’s world, Straight Outta Compton was a cathartic investigative report. For those who found the album to be thrilling awakening, the group packed the substance of Bob Dylan, with the “F.U.” flare of Guns N’ Roses. This album (the title song of which recently reached a pinnacle chart position after the biopic of the same name) put five men, a city, and a way of life through music on the map.

Album Number: 1 (2 as group)
Released: August 9, 1988
Label: Ruthless/Priority Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #4 (certified gold, April 1989; certified platinum, July 1989; certified 2x platinum, March 1992)
Song Guests: The D.O.C.
Song Producers: (self)


good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city represented the Compton, California MC’s first release with major label backing. Following the heralded Section.80, K-Dot landed himself not only a top Interscope Records distribution deal, but also the tutelage and stamp of approval from Dr. Dre and his Aftermath Entertainment. Based on those changes in surroundings, the world anticipated resulting changes in the artist. With so many weapons at his disposal and advisers on his board, Kendrick Lamar would undoubtedly go big—just as others like him had done. However, when the album released—audiences showed no disappointment in Dre’s production absence. The truth is, there might not be anyone quite like Kendrick Lamar. Rather, G.K.M.C. proved that Kendrick’s formula as an independent was wildly in tact as a chart-soaring platinum act. The themes, the guests, and the sound of Kendrick Lamar were unscathed. However, the focus, refinement, and brilliant execution of concept were refined—whether due to artistic maturity, or the enhanced world surrounding the MC.

While Kendrick Duckworth had two acclaimed (and charting) albums already under his belt, good kid… played like a debut. The 24 year-old went back to his childhood, his family inner-workings, and Hub City to find a detailed world of circumstance. “The Art Of Peer Pressure” was a charged ride-along with adolescents doing bad, at extremely high stakes. “Good Kid” and “m.A.A.d city” were one-two punches on the juxtaposition of a highly-observant, “chosen” prodigy living in a world where street-gangs, hard drugs, and survival rule. Kendrick Lamar did not describe a world that delivered him. Instead, his beats, cadences, and angst kidnapped the listener to Rosecrans Avenue, fed ’em a Tam’s Burger, and tucked their chain in. Just as he’d done on the last album, Lamar showed that while the rest of the world was evolving, the C-P-T was still as Darwinist as any ecosystem in the world. “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst” presented a Jazz-savvy poet, who rhymed with an intellect and sincerity unrivaled. However, even if the TDE star seemed like an artist unwilling to deliver lighthearted music, “Swimming Pools” would charm DJs with elements of Screw, EDM, and Trap—never shunning sophisticated flows or substance. In one captivating brush stroke, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city explained just who the MC was.

Album Number: 3
Released: October 22, 2012
Label: Top Dawg/Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, December 2012; certified platinum, August 2013)
Song Guests: Drake, Jay Rock, MC Eiht, Dr. Dre, ScHoolboy Q, Kent Jamz, Anna Wise, Ill Camille, JMSN, Chad Hugo, Amari Parnell, Mary Keating, Charly & Margaux, Gabriel Stevenson
Song Producers: Just Blaze, Pharrell Williams, Hit-Boy, Tha Bizness, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, Tabu, Scoop Deville, Terrace Martin, Likewise, Skyhe Hutch, T-Minus, THC

So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.

Related: Ambrosia For Heads’ Finding The GOAT: The Albums