Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.”
Just when we think we have heard the best of Kendrick, he proves us wrong.
When To Pimp A Butterfly came out, we thought that was the peak. He can’t get any better. Wow we were wrong.
Kendrick released “DAMN.” Only a week after it was announced. It starts off strong. It goes from Kendrick walking through the park, to having a conversation with a woman in the street, to getting shot, and with Fox News samples analyzing his lyrics from “Alright” off of To Pimp A Butterfly.
The first couple tracks are hardhitting and a bit more mellow than what he has done. He is still just as mad as ever with honest lines like “Fox News wanna use my name for percentage” and “Ain’t nobody praying for me”. “BLOOD.”, “DNA.”, and “YAH.” opened this album the way only Kendrick Lamar can. We have an introductory track, a banging up beat track, and a softer track that focuses more on rap-singing and is more chilled out.
When we get more towards the middle of the album with a track like “FEEL.”, we get to hear how scared Kendrick is. We actually get personal with Kendrick himself. He opens himself up and even compares himself to Tupac Shakur before asking “But who the fuck praying for me?”
He brings in strong Christian imagery in the mix. As an Atheist, it was appreciated as it wasn’t pushy or preachy but rather helped push the story along and helped push his peaceful message around. We encounter various biblical themes such as Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” This proved to be the theme of “PRIDE.” and “HUMBLE.”
On “PRIDE.”, Kendrick talks about how he is known to be the greatest rapper alive by many and how that can cause some tension. “HUMBLE.” is more of him showing off his wordplay and lyricism, informing his competition to be humbled.
“LUST.” Has a very classic early 2000’s rap vibe. A bit more R&B-like and mellow. A great track to follow “HUMBLE.” “LOVE.” Is a low point of the album but not by much. It just feels it drags on a bit too long. Kendrick puts on his best Drake impression for this song, and where he does do Drake’s style way better than Drake himself, it falls short.
The Drake style of sing-rapping is too nasally. Kendrick still does it beautifully, but I would have liked it better with him sounding like he sang on “YAH.
Let’s not forget the amazing Rihanna feature “LOYALTY.” The ending with them singing together had me hypnotized. It sounded beautiful. Another amazing feature we get on this album is the track “XXX.” which features U2. It’s the climax of the album’s tension. It’s hard-hitting in every way with some of the most brutally honest lines like “Johnny don’t wanna go to school no mo’, no mo’/Johnny said books ain’t cool no mo’ (no mo’)/Johnny wanna be a rapper like his big cousin/Johnny caught a body yesterday out hustlin’/God bless America, you know we all love him” as well as political lines like “It’s nasty when you set us up/Then roll the dice, then bet us up/You overnight the big rifles, then tell Fox to be scared of us/Gang members or terrorists, et cetera, et cetera/America’s reflections of me, that’s what a mirror does (Ameri-does)”. The ending part with Bono fully completes the song. Bono’s singing before and after that final verse hits perfectly. The mellow notes Bono sings leaves the listener speechless.
“FEAR.” Is a fantastic track that opens more of Kendrick’s personal feelings that we got a hint from on “FEEL.” He goes into 3 verses. He tells stories of 3 times he was scared in his life: 7, 17, and 27. He then goes into a 4th verse to explain his own present fear. After that, we go right into “GOD.” Which is more of a lower point of the album but all in all is still catchy.
Finally, to top it off we got “DUCKWORTH.”, which tells the story of a man named Ducky. For those who don’t know, Kendrick’s full name is Kendrick Lamar Duckworth. The story he tells is of his Father almost getting shot by Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith years before Kendrick would get signed by that very same man. Kendrick then closes the album out with a gunshot like we heard at the end of the first track, then a reversal of everything we just heard, speed up then slowed down all the way until we hear the first words Kendrick spoke on the record, “So, I was taking a walk the other day…”
Overall, it’s probably one of the best hip hop records of all time. The lyricism of Kendrick Lamar improves more and more with each album. Is this finally his peak? Or has he yet to release everything he has for us? Because if he has way more in store and refines everything, then I will surely be impressed, as if I am not already. This is already as perfect to an album you can get. Only thing keeping me from fully giving it a perfect score is mostly for that chorus on “GOD.” As it’s catchy but not quite as good as it could have been lyrically.But either way, Sit Down and Be Humble. We are witnessing a music legend.
Reviewed by Leo Adkins