By Paul de Revere
Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city is a vivid, impressionist portrayal of Lamar’s life growing up in Compton, full of specific local references that puts the listener in a time, space and place. One way Lamar does this is with off-hand reference to Los Angeles landmarks, some of which are restaurants.
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Here are few spots that Lamar shouts out explicitly, the implicit surroundings of “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)” off his 2011 debut Section.80, and even a few downtown spots near the Staples Center he could treat himself and his Top Dawg Entertainment crew to, should he be celebrating an Album of the Year win at this Sunday’s GRAMMYs.
Compton eats, Compton memories
If one thing is clear from good kid, m.A.A.d. city, it’s that Kendrick Lamar is a fan of Church’s Chicken. On “Money Trees” when he raps, “Pull off at Church’s with Perellis skirtin’,” it’s an illustration of a hood-rich dude who still craves the tastes with which he grew up.
Lamar is more specific on “Backseat Freestyle,” where he parks his whip “in front of Lueders, next to that Church’s Chicken,” referring to Church’s on East Rosecrans Avenue near Lueders Park Community Center in East Compton, right in his old ‘hood. The reference pops up in the Google listing, even. It’s these little details from Lamar that gives the listener a taste of everyday life in his neighborhood, with locales pulled from his past.
Nearby that Church’s on East Rosecrans is the good kid landmark Louis Burgers, the site of a non-fictional tragedy in the otherwise semi-fictionalized, impressionist drama that comprises the album. Lamar provides background with “P&P,” off his 2009 self-titled EP: “Pain since my grandma’s death, uncle killed at Louis Burgers/Hold my tears, I tried my best, let it go, drench my pullover.”
If science tells us that scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, maybe taste isn’t far behind. It seems to be at play here for Lamar, whose uncle was killed at a Louis Burgers, a fast-food franchise in Los Angeles. “That Louis Burger never be the same,” Lamar raps on “Money Trees,” “A Louis [Vuitton] belt will never ease that pain.”
It’s a sad lyric that reminds listeners that tastes have the potential to hurt as much as heal. Louis Burgers’ association with Lamar uncle’s death is perhaps eased in some way by its replacement, Church’s Chicken — associated with new, better memories. When he’s “skirtin’” away, Lamar doesn’t let his loss get him down, screeching away with his two piece and a biscuit on some of the finest-made tires in the world.
The ‘fancy girls’ and Mexican joints on Long Beach Boulevard
On “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)” off Section.80, Lamar sets a scene of vice and struggle on one of L.A.’s main drags: “Fancy girls on Long Beach Boulevard/Flagging down all of these flashy cars.” Keisha might find some of those tricked-out whips at Lido, a neon-lit Mexican club and Mexican-food joint featuring live Latin music and plenty of cowboy-hatted patrons munching on standard late-night eats like burritos and quesadillas.
Much of Long Beach Boulevard, like Los Angeles overall, is dominated by Mexican food. That kind of food scene means there’s often some entry into Mexican provincial dining. At Real de Oaxaca, you can sit down to some seriously earthy Oaxacan flavors: four different mole sauces, grilled cactus and banana leaf-wrapped tamales, to name a few menu highlights.
A celebratory GRAMMYs feast?
If Lamar wins the Album of the Year GRAMMY for good kid, m.A.A.d. city, he would do well to go out for a well-deserved celebratory dinner at The Palm, an upscale, old-school steakhouse on South Flower Street near the Staples Center. Or if he’s thinking Church’s Chicken, Lamar wouldn’t even have to leave the Staples Center for celebrity chef Ludo Levebre’s LudoBird, an upscale fried chicken joint in the Staples Center’s concession stands.