My Initial Reactions to DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar!
So it’s 12:25 AM EST and the date is April 14th. It’s a little breezy here in New York. I went on a run (2.35 Miles!) over an hour ago and had a great dinner right after. But the world outside of mine is going crazy and taking over millions of Twitter timelines. Kendrick Lamar has just released his fourth album titled“DAMN.” The God MC from Compton has captured our attention with vivid wordplay, excellent storytelling and flows that define our limitations in the human voice. And for the first time, I am capturing my LIVE reactions to Kendrick’s new album. No re-do’s, no skips and no pauses. Salute to Yoh from the DJ Booth website who does a good job writing these type of pieces. If only, mine is a little good.
- BLOOD: Ok this is unique. Very old school feel to it. Something out of the 1970’s. Can guess it sets the tone, but who knows. Kendrick with a spoken word? Or just slowing down his speech? Damn he got shot by the blind lady. Oh a sample of the news talking about his music? Intriguing.
2. DNA: Can’t wait to find out who produced this record! So distorted in its sound and the switch up close to the end is crazy. It’s actually the best part. Kendrick is spitting some bars but doesn’t have my attention for the most part. I have a feeling, production will carry this album.
3. YAH: Really like the vibe of this song so far. Side note: It reminds me of something that Action Bronson and Mac Miller would hope on. Kenny with some shots to FOX News. This is a new flow, that I personally haven’t heard from Kenny before. This rides smooth. And it’s quick. Cool song.
4. ELEMENT: The song’s first 50 seconds is telling me something! This sounds like a great record. Ayy it is! Love Kendrick when he uses simplified but effective songwriting. It’s a different shift from his regular verses that are rich in vocabulary and vocal range. The hook is effective and memorable. “Mr 1–5, that’s the only logic/fake my death, go to Cuba, that’s the only option”. OK KENNY. Wait is that a mini, Juenville reference when it comes to the flow he just used?
5. FEEL: So this idea of nobody praying for him will be a running theme during the album? Just asking. Wait, this is the record LeBron was playing on his IG story! I can see why. It’s definitely his type of record. It’s introspective. Has a “me against the world” vibe. Something, he will certainly play during his post-season run. Interesting to hear Kenny dive more into his feelings about the opposition and others in the rap game. It might be just me, but I think he rarely addresses that along with opinions from the internet. Like I mentioned on DNA, the production on this album is carrying everything.
6. LOYALTY FEAT. RIHANNA: When the album leaked on Thursday afternoon, some people on my timeline were going crazy about this record. One thing is catching me off guard is how “different” DAMN. is sounding. Considering where we are with hip hop in 2017, Kenny is definitely using more traditional hip hop/R&B infused instrumentals. Rihanna feels like the star on this song. She does alright but it doesn’t blow me away like everybody else was saying.
7. PRIDE: Kenny’s songwriting and vocal performance doesn’t sound right to me as I’m approaching the half-way point of “DAMN”. His voice sounds a bit low and the switch up in his choice of instrumentals, has thrown me for a loop after taking in TPAB and what followed after. The production is decent and I’m nodding to this song. But just a little bit.
8. HUMBLE: HUMBLE deserves to be a hit and I’m happy that it is. Mike Will Made It made a very dope beat and from a lyrical standpoint, this IS THE KENDRICK I need. Sounds so alive, more focused and witty with his bars. Big time record. It certainly woke me up.
9. LUST: Either Kendrick is about to sing or use one of his alien voices. Yup, it’s a mix of both. The switch up from singing to rapping was good. I like the production on this. Wonder if this has a sample. Can I assume that the second half of this album will be better then the first? I certainly hope so. But Kenny’s last two verses are good. Cohesive and descriptive.
10. LOVE FEAT. ZACARI: Yo this sounds like a Dr… NAH I’M NOT SAYING IT. Hearing Kenny on this type of beat has me very intrigued and he’s executing it on a high level. In every way possible. I never imagined him on these type of records. ZACARI on the hook is a good fit. Like his voice too. Yup, my assumption of the second half being better is looking correct.
11. XXX FEAT. U2: Just taking in this record as much as possible, but I’m liking it a lot. Has a RUN DMC feel to it, especially with the switch up at the 1:30 time mark. Kenny’s voice man. Just so clear once again. Making it look easy. One thing, I should bring up is the album’s perspective. Or purpose. I don’t think it’s easy to find. It was certainly the case on “Good Kid, Madd City” and “To Pimp A Butterfly”. U2 and Kenny finish the song on a high note.
12. FEAR: Oh isn’t the same instrumental that represented the switch up in “The Heart Part 4'? I liked this instrumental. This is like the second or third song, Kenny has verses that consist of multiple lines that start with a certain phase. On this song, it’s “I’ll beat yo ass” and “I’ll prolly die”. It’s alright to me. I wish his approach was different. Maybe a continuation of what he did on The Heart Part 4. Just a lyrical exercise with more shots sent at others.
13. GOD: Just realizing this album is another experiment by Kendrick, but one made for those who felt alienated by TPAB. Starting to make sense why all of these beats are on the album and the subject matter is what it is. It’s something, we would hear from others that are relevant. But back to this: It’s cool. “Laughing to the bank like haha” will certainly be remembered, for good or bad. Really like the beat on this record. Kenny’s second or third verse rides just right. Bars are hitting just right. Cool record.
14. DUCKWORTH: The end of a journey. I can certainly use, a lyrical exercise by Kenny right now. C’mon bruh, give it to me… wait. THERE IT IS. “Hard times, mama on crack/A four year old telling his nanny he needed her”. That’s what I need! Man Kenny is snapping right now. Vivid storytelling about his folks back home. And it keeps getting better and better. Wow. What a finish! What a sick reverse of the instrumental. Now that’s how you finish a album. My prediction was correct.
My final, first time thoughts? “DAMN” isn’t a good, complete project. At all. The first half is a little underwhelming minus a couple of records. I wasn’t getting the message or better yet seeing the vision by Kenny. But the second half? Much, much better. On the grading scale, I would give it a B+ and say it did enough to save this album. It was just more cohesive and actually had a vision. And to get a little technical, I thought Kenny had more of a presence because his verses packed more punch, was more diverse in songwriting techniques and his vocal range improved.
Fans of Kendrick will certainly have their stan moments and proclaim this as great. Call it album of the year. Say he dropped another “classic”. Chances are, Kendrick will probably receive more very positive reviews from the critics because they love his music. BUT (there’s always a but), also recognize this: “DAMN” could very well be the first Kenny project that gets a decent amount of mixed-negative reactions. And that’s if people are being honest and not scared away by public opinion. TPAB and GKMC are absolutely, positively better then “DAMN” and deserve their praise and classic labels. But “DAMN” certainly doesn’t. It’s a solid album. Has its moments. But quite possibly, for the first time in his career… Kenny truly didn’t deliver the way, we know he can. Now hang me on the crosss to die.
FINAL SCORE: 7.5 out of 10.
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