“DAMN.” Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

DAMN. Album Review

Top Dawg Entertainment/Interscope/Aftermath

Released April 14, 2017

Genre: Hip Hop, Conscious Hip Hop

How do you follow up one of the greatest records ever made? How do you follow up your frequently cited magnum opus? How do you even begin to approach your follow-up? Kendrick Lamar had big expectations to fulfill following his most complex, dense, and timeless effort to date. The possibilities were endless? More jazz? More soul? More concepts? Lamar did what only he could do: be simultaneously blatant and dense, bringing forth his most jarring, simple, and straightforward record to date. DAMN. cements Lamar’s place as the best figure in modern hip-hop today.

To Pimp A Butterfly meditated on socially relevant topics of race, depression, poverty, and the life of African American youth, but it did so in a sprawling and complex manner with funk imbued instrumentation. DAMN. finds Lamar delving deeper into his own psyche – toggling through dark caverns and inner dialogues; through reactions to criticisms and tenuous conditions, socially and politically. This time around Lamar’s verses stab at the heart of problems plaguing society, and they are as scathing as they are blunt. Backed behind expensive beats and dark production, DAMN. is as captivating as it it enthralling.

With the sinister opening of “BLOOD.”, a tale of an ordinary day gone wrong,  Lamar segues into “D.N.A” – a scathing critique of Fox News’ infamous (and inane) “review” of Lamar’s BET performance, which is sampled and closes “BLOOD.” Focusing on his ethnicity and pigmentation, Lamar skewers River’s insipid write-off of systematic racism, even rapping past Mike-Will-Made-It’s beat, ushering in a dynamic and blistering closer. “FEEL.”, “PRIDE.”, and “LUST.” find Lamar drifting into dark, sludgy territory, worming his way deeper into his psyche.

The bombastic “HUMBLE.”, and its double edged sword of decadence and deconstruction, whilst accompanying many parties to come, should leave ones facial expression akin to the album cover. Its combination of self hatred and indulgence, accompanied by Mike-Will-Made-It’s fantastic production, simultaneously forces one to love and embrace the virtues and vices of being human. The U2-featured “XXX.” discusses morality, and how anyone is susceptible to evil – no matter how good we are. The album centerpiece “FEAR.” finds Kendrick expressing his fear of dying amidst his violent upbringing. Lamar is far gone from the pristine and club-ready bangers combined with vivid and vigorous storytelling; he’s full-on preaching at this point.

The true magic of DAMN. lies in its dense lyrical content, which many fans looking for a quick and danceable beat will rarely catch and understand. While Lamar recognizes the evils of humanity and society, he also recognizes the human aspect of it all. More so, he embraces it with open arms. Evident by the final gunshot that loops back to the beginning of the record, DAMN. is a constant dialogue of different perspectives: identifying, embracing, and improving the elements that make us who we are, no matter how sinister they are.




SCORE: 8.6/10

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