7th 14th of April, Kendrick Lamar released his most mainstream album to date. Though I don’t think this is a bad thing at all. Any Kendrick fan is going to love this record, but if you are a particular fan of Section.80 and good kid – then you will love this record a whole lot more. I like to think of DAMN. as a combination of all the music Kendrick has put out so far. The record is sonically distinct and catchy and downright menacing at times. If KDot doesn’t sweep the grammy’s next year, I have lost all faith in mainstream music(kidding, kinda).
I didn’t know what to expect, How does an artist create a follow up a body of work like To Pimp A Butterfly ? – I felt like I was the one taking a walk the other day in the scene Kendrick portrays in BLOOD. While not surprised that it was a story, my initial thought was that there are few rappers who can tell a story like Kendrick Lamar. You could throw J. Cole, Andre Benjamin and Nas into the equation but that’s about it. The record feels personal and triumphant.
DNA. is one of my all time favourite songs. The song starts off the back of a
Fox News Propaganda MAchine soundbyte and transitions into a bass heavy trap beat. Taking flow and production cues from the sub-genre. What I heard was more accessible to the mainstream.
This proves true with songs like as LOYALTY. featuring Rihanna(yes please), HUMBLE. and LOVE. featuring Zacari. You can hear that they are attempts at more radio friendly music. Are they weaker than the rest of the record? I don’t think so! I think LOVE. is exceptionally catchy – the production excellent. I love Zacari’s falsetto vocals. The track sounds quite like something Drake might do back in the Too Much days. I have written and extensive piece on HUMBLE. but I love that song. LOYALTY. is good but probably the weakest track on DAMN. , I love Rihanna and her feature was good but the track does feel like an attempt an attempt at a radio hit. It shouldn’t. I still think it’s catchy and better than what most other artist’s are putting out.
It wasn’t long before we got back to introspective Kenny. PRIDE. is a deeply religious track that considers Proverbs 11:2 : “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” . This ties into the contrast between humility and boastfulness, PRIDE. is an account of the contrast between what He should be doing and what He is doing. PRIDE. is soft, humble and introspective, it conflicts with it’s title in every sense. HUMBLE. is bombastic and full of pride. It’s anything but humble.
LUST. is just as it title says, an honest record of Men and Womxn and how we wast time by succumbing to lust in our daily lives. Not just sexually but in every day thoughts and actions. Sexual lust does play a big role in the narrative of the song. It’s thoughtful and provoking. It’s certainly a bit creepy at times but in the context of the slow song, it works.
I would highly recommend ALL Millennial’s to watch this video done by Justin Hunte
One of three “hard” songs on the record, XXX. starts off with a soulful nod to Dr. Dre’s and a menacing channeling of Ice Cube that tells a story of many a young men in the projects. “Jonny” doesn’t want to to school, He wants to be a rapper because they bang, He gets shot and Kendrick is asked for advice(This ties to the “hip-hop rhyme saviour” line from The Heart Part 4) – Kendrick doesn’t mince his words.
“He said: “K-Dot, can you pray for me?
It been a fucked up day for me
I know that you anointed, show me how to overcome.”
He was lookin’ for some closure
Hopin’ I could bring him closer
To the spiritual, my spirit do know better, but I told him
“I can’t sugarcoat the answer for you, this is how I feel:
If somebody kill my son, that mean somebody gettin’ killed.”
He re-iterates the message of urgent spirituality and conviction. But questions what you are willing to do for someone you love. You wouldn’t murder someone right? Well what if it was the person who murdered your child or your significant other, would you not go eye for a eye?
Beginning with a recorded voice call from his cousin Carl Duckworth (said cousin mentions that in Deuteronomy that “we’ve all ben cursed” – as sad in YAH.), FEAR. then does a David Lynch on Kendrick. The track is played backwards to great effect. Once again a deeply narrative song, documenting three instances of fear in his lifetime. Firstly the fears of growing up as a young boy with an overly strict mother. Then in his teens facing the fear of dying young because of the increased gang activity in his neighborhood(Compton), and lastly the very same feelings of inadequacy and introspection in To Pimp a Butterfly. The track does at times feel like it belongs on Section 80. which I don’t mind in the least bit.
I loved to reference to “Keyshia’s daughter”, a nod to Section 80.
“When I was 27, I grew accustomed to more fear
Accumulated 10 times over throughout the years
My newfound life made all of me magnified
How many accolades do I need to block denial?
The shock value of my success put bolts in me”
The feeling of success The satisfaction and the reward. It’s difficult not to flaunt, especially when you are Kendrick Lamar. The rapper is unapologetically boastful about his achievements in the first verse of GOD. and how they must be what God feels like. He drops Jay Z ‘s name, someone who isn’t afraid to flaunt either – like all good things it must come to an end. The song takes a humbling progression. Kendrick understands that He is just a man. The track has a catchy hook and trap sensibilities. I love this Kendrick.
The last track, DUCKWORTH. is one of Kendrick’s best to date. A truthful retelling of how Top Dawg, the CEO of TDE, almost killed Kendrick Lamar’s father. 20 years prior to Kendrick recording with TD. A College Dropout-like sample turns around to a rich flow that I believe few others can muster, it breathes life into the story of extraordinary coincidences.
I love this Kendrick. It’s a return to his very mainstream accessible roots of Good Kid. Keeping the same consciousness and expanding it to incorporate not only larger systematic struggles but millennial struggles and idelas. DAMN. is spiritual but not preachy, arrogant but self aware, powerful but subtle.