good kid, m.A.A.d city at 10: How Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools” Helped Me Get Over My Own Toxic Relationship

K.Dot's major label debut, released on this week in 2012, captures more than one type of addiction

Kendrick Lamar Good Kid Maad City

Great albums are about more than the music. When they really hit, just mentioning their names evokes memories and elicits “Remember when…” conversations. good kid, m.A.A.d city — released on October 22nd, 2012 — is one of those albums, which is why its 10-year anniversary is a very big deal.

Kendrick Lamar became a household name on the strength of everything he did on this album, while possibly becoming the voice of a generation at the same time. He got into our bloodstreams through touching topics that meant a lot to him, while hoping we related. I related in a way I never predicted and 10 years later, I understand how important just one song was because it truly changed my world in a way no piece of music ever has nor probably ever will.

Addiction sucks. I’m pretty sure I’m not blowing any minds with that little revelation, nor am I the last person to ever make that observation. “Swimming Pools (Drank)” is my favorite Kendrick Lamar song. It works as a club record while also speaking about the ills of alcoholism and the problems stemming from addiction. Our vices don’t have to be drugs or alcohol, and when you don’t drink or smoke, those weaknesses that make you feel like Pookie or Bubbles might seem harder to find. But we’re all human, and we all have our vices. For me, that addiction was a toxic relationship. Kendrick’s 2012 single helped break me down and build me back up.

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Relationships are tough, and sometimes ending them is even more challenging. My partner and I were together for six years, but it felt like 10, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. She watched me graduate college, helped me get through an insane job hunt, and when my mom died, I reached out to her first. I felt like she was the only one I needed by my side. She helped me deal with this thing called life. But all that good either blinded me to the bad or made me weigh it less heavily.

Lies became simple misunderstandings. Over time, her actions that usually evoked hellfire and brimstone barely elicited a finger point. I let many transgressions slide while ignoring my increasingly terrible mood and self-esteem dropping faster than pouring rain during a thunderstorm. When someone cheats on you and breaches that trust, it tends to mess with you, and, based on my emotional makeup at the time while dealing with my mother’s death, I was in a fog, so sue me.

Kendrick’s song details what it’s like tiptoeing that line between “I’m drunk” and “I’m dependent” and how scary that is for someone with a history of alcoholism in their family. Thankfully, that’s not a trait in my genetics. Still, that fear of succumbing to something when you feel like it’s your only outlet is just a tad too relatable. Or just needing something — or someone — to make things feel better, even if it’s for a fleeting moment.


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