*As always be gentle…
Kendrick Lamar’s highly anticipated fourth studio album, DAMN. has finally been released. Following the success of the hit single HUMBLE., DAMN. doesn’t disappoint with a 14 track album of raw and cut-throat music. Unlike his earlier projects (good kid, m.A.A.d city and To Pimp a Butterfly), this album is bold, blunt, and straight to the point, just like the title. Staying true to his “woke” and consciousness, Kendrick Lamar raps with an urgency and ability to tell a story in a way only he can.
Kendrick takes us on a journey, literally opening the album in an interesting way by not rapping, but talking to his audience and telling a story. The first words Kendrick utter on this album are, So I was takin’ a walk the other day, on the first track, BLOOD. BLOOD. gives us the first taste of the themes that will be displayed throughout the album, death, religion, dominance, love, heritage, emotions, and idea of weakness vs. wickedness. An actual gunshot is heard reaffirming the theme of death before Kendrick ends the first track with an excerpt from Fox News claiming that the lyrics from Alright were anti-police.
The next track, DNA, has Kendrick rap over a contagious Mike WILL Made-It beat, where he explains in the first verse how he is proud of his heritage and roots. He expounds by proclaiming that his DNA is superior to others, therefore showing his dominance not only as a rapper but as a black man. In the middle of the song, you hear more clips from the Fox News interview that was introduced on BLOOD. The beat and Kendrick’s rap flow then change to one of urgency and anger as he discusses cultural approbation and those who try to profit from it.
Kendrick moves along with YAH. where he further jabs Fox News and calls out television anchor, Geraldo Rivera (the voice in all the previous clips). This track was produced by producers Sounwave and DJ Dahi, who have made beats for some of Kendrick’s previous songs as well as rappers Drake and Schoolboy Q. This slowed down version has Kendrick sort of singing over the mellow beat. YAH. begins the usage of biblical references by stating, I’m not a politician, I’m not about religion/ I’m an Israelite, don’t call me black no mo’/ The word is only a color it ain’t facts no mo’. The title is a play on the name Yahweh, which is the Hebrew term for God. PRIDE. and XXX. continue the religious theme by focusing on religion in the terms of the seven deadliest sins [in PRIDE.] and church versus state [in XXX.]. Kendrick goes out the norms by teaming up with U2 for XXX. which expresses distaste with the state of the country and the turmoil majority of America feels about it.
In ELEMENT. Kendrick asserts his dominance in the rap game, by pretty much imitating the rap styles of rival rappers, Big Sean and Drake. The beginning of the song is even similar to Big Seans I Don’t Fuck with You and the first verse is reminiscent of Big Sean’s rap style while the hook is similar to Drake. However, Kendrick isn’t doing this to pay homage to his fellow rappers. In the tone of mocking Kendrick lets all rappers know there is no competition. He raps, Because it’s all in your eyes, most of y’all tell lies/Most of y’all don’t fade, most of y’all been advised/Last LP I tried to lift the black artists/But it’s a difference between black artists and wack artists. ELEMENT. has all the makings of another commercial hit, especially with its catchy chorus. Kendrick continues this swagger on songs HUMBLE. and GOD.
We get to see the softer side of K DOT on songs LOYALTY. LUST. and LOVE. Kendrick and Rihanna have been wanting to work together for some time now and LOYALTY. is a solid collaborative effort. This self-explanatory song highlights loyal attributes in a relationship rather romantic or platonic played over a loop of the reversed synthesized intro of Bruno Mars 24k Magic. LOYALTY. takes the popular Jay-Z lyric It’s a secret society, all we ask is trust, from Get Your Mind Right Mami off The Dynasty album, which focuses on people who put money (in God we trust) over loyalty. Rihanna sings towards the end that it’s so hard to be humble playing off the song featured a little later in the album. LUST. discusses the things in life that one can lust over from sexual intimacy to success, fame, and fortune. The opposite of lust is LOVE. which features singer Zacari. Kendrick takes on almost a pop feel on this sing-song ballad, which talks about the intimacy and emotions that come with falling in love with someone.
On the track FEEL. Kendrick expresses his feelings and starts almost every line of the song with the phrase I feel. The song shows how Kendrick is still internally, emotionally, and spiritually struggling with issues and insecurities as he feels all alone but still has the desire to be isolated. In the song FEARS. Kendrick addresses three instances throughout his life where he has come in contact with his irrational fears. The fears take place at three stages of his life childhood (7), adolescent (17), and adulthood (27) all taking a place ten years apart and reflective of a boy turning into a man.
Last but not least is the song, DUCKWORTH. DUCKWORTH. is Kendrick’s last name, and throughout the record you can see some of those challenges Kendrick has to face, one being his self. Kendrick drops a line inspired by Tupac’s Me Against the World song when rapping, It was always me versus the world/until I found it’s me versus me. Kendrick ends DUCKWORTH. and the album the same way he started it, with a gunshot and the line So I was takin’ a walk the other day, bringing the album full circle.
All in all, I think DAMN. is a solid rap album, which has enough depth and commercial hits to be successful. Kendrick definitely makes you feel that if he is not your favorite rapper, then you aren’t doing this hip-hop thing right. The one thing I do miss is the funk and groove inspired beats that were more prominent in his previous works. However, Kendrick does not disappoint on tackling real issues and distinctive thoughts with an air of finesse. Don’t let me be the judge, check out the album for yourself. You can purchase DAMN. on Itunes now
MY FAVORITE DAMN. JAMS…
1. DNA. 2. ELEMENT. 3. LOYALTY. 4. HUMBLE. 5. LOVE.
*Rumor has it that Kendrick is due to drop another album on Sunday before his Coachella performance. If he comes with another album with just as much quality and thought, then the G.O.A. T status of the rap game goes to Kendrick, hands down.