Kendrick Lamar delivers another great album with DAMN.
Kendrick Lamar returns with another socially conscious album that is taking over both the Internet and the rap game. King Kendrick is back in full effect.
Since the days of writing in his notebook on the cover of his self-titled EP, Kendrick Lamar has been destined to take over the rap game. Five projects later, King Kendrick has dropped the album that not only takes fans back to his Section.80 days, but once again solidifies his rightful place as one of the best rappers currently in hip-hop.
On Friday, Kendrick dropped his highly anticipated fourth studio album DAMN. and as many fans expected, he did not disappoint.
The album begins with Kendrick Lamar walking and seeing a blind woman pacing up and down the sidewalk as if she had lost something. As Kendrick approaches the woman to help her find what she is looking for, the woman responses with “you have lost something, you’ve lost, your life,” as she shoots Kendrick. Following the shot, a clip from Fox News plays discussing how they disapproved the line about “And we hate po-po, wanna kill us in the street fo’ sho’” in his single “Alright” and then the madness happens.
“BLOOD” goes into the Mike Will Made-It produced track “DNA” and Kendrick delivers one of the best transition I’ve ever heard on an album. If I had to use a sports reference to describe the feeling I had when I heard the ending of “BLOOD” to the beginning of “DNA” it would be like when Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan dunked on point guard Brandon Knight. Jordan’s vicious dunk being Kendrick’s lyrics and delivery, while Knight plays the role of Fox News, just a victim in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Fox News criticized Kendrick’s performance at the 2015 BET Awards when he performed the Grammy award-winning single “Alright” off To Pimp a Butterfly. However, this backlash only fueled the loyalty to his fans that’s inside his DNA and gave the people another single rage against the machine to. He continued his verbal attack on Fox News on the following track “YAH” name dropping talk show host Geraldo Rivera, who said “hip hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”
Interviews wanna know my thoughts and opinions/ Fox News wanna use my name for percentage/ My latest news is my niece, she worth living/ Seen me on the TV screen, that’s Uncle Kendrick/ Yeah that’s the business, somebody tell Geraldo, this ni***a got some ambition
Geraldo wasn’t the only victim of K. Dot’s lyrical assassination on this album. On the track “ELEMENT,” he takes a “Control” approach and goes after his competition while keeping his targets nameless. Some people would say he is going after Big Sean or Drake, but if this is how Kendrick responds to sneak disses, Big Sean might want to bounce backwards and Drake might not want to blow free smoke in Kung Fu Kenny direction. Also in this song, Kendrick has created a future Instagram post caption with “I’ma make it look sexy.”
After settling a score with his competition, Kendrick goes into a different place on the track “FEEL.” On this song, he is battling with depression and feels like no one is praying for him during his most rough times. This is one of the deepest songs on the album, taking fans inside the mind of Kendrick as he vents his feelings to the world and feels like no one has his back as he continues to fight the demons within himself.
After the aggressive lyrics of “FEEL”, Kendrick lightens up the mood of the album with the the help of Rihanna on the song “LOYALTY,” which could be the next big chart-topping song for Kendrick. Bad girl RiRi’s rapping is the big takeaway from this single, as she shares center stage with Kendrick. I won’t go as far as saying she ethered K.Dot like Eminem did Jay Z on “Renegade.” However, Rihanna and Kendrick mesh well together as the share bars in this instant radio banger. This song could have the same commercial impact as “Poetic Justice” off Good Kid M.A.A.D City or “These Walls” off To Pimp a Butterfly, which won a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2016.
Speaking of “These Walls,” singer/songwriter Anna Wise, who collaborated with Kendrick on the Grammy award-winning song, afford her vocals once again on the track “PRIDE.” On this song, Kendrick dreams of a perfect world while rapping to a simple drum beat with the style of a Andre 3000. This is a perfect song to sit back, smoke some hookah and meditate to.
“HUMBLE,” the lead single off the album and another Mike Will produced track, is a playful song that introduced fans to the album and it is slowly becoming one of Kendrick’s biggest solo hits to date. The single debuted at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 — his highest charting single as a lead artist and the highest debut for a rap song since “Not Afraid” by Eminem in 2010. The single caught on and has recently took the number one spot giving Kendrick his first number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. All I have to say about this track is Mike Will does it again.
As Kendrick tries to stay humble, he battles trying to deal with a world full of temptation on “LUST.” This track reminds me of Kendrick’s Overly Dedicated mixtape in which he described the genre of that tape as “human music.” Whenever there is lust, eventually someone finds love. He finds his ride-or-die and his getaway from the temptations on the following track “LOVE.”
Similar to “LOYALTY,” “LOVE”offers Kendrick another radio single. The key takeaway from this single was the feature by Zacari, who also collaborated with Kendrick and TDE label mate Isaiah Rashad’s single “Wat’s Wrong.” I don’t think this song would sound the same if you switch Bono and Rihanna in his spot. His voice on this song is what makes this song so unique and his vocals could be a launching pad for something special in the future. Kendrick is showing Drake that he isn’t the only one that can rap about love and make it a hit. Also the song may come from a familiar place for Kendrick after getting engaged to his high school sweetheart, Whitney Alford, back in April 2015.
When the track list for the album was released, I saw a feature from U2 and said to myself this could be really good or be a terrible combination. However on “XXX,” it makes you want more Bono vocals on hip hop songs. “XXX” is rock/rap collaboration with no guitar solo like Kanye used on “Devil in a New Dress.” Just four lines for Bono vocals and some powerful raps by Kendrick about the current state of the country. I wish Bono had more lines to sing in the song, but I think it’s a song both fanbases can enjoy.
Homicidal thoughts, Donald Trump’s in office/ We lost Barack and promised to never doubt him again/ But is America honest or do we bask in sin?
Outside of the final track on the album, “FEAR” has the most solid concept. Using the “The Heart Part 4” instrumental, which was a teaser single to promote the album and taking a new spin, Kendrick raps about his fears at the ages of 7, 17 and 27. His fears could be relatable to any normal human-being from fearing his mother discipline at 7, fearing death at 17, and fearing failure brought on upon by success at 27. Those fears don’t have to be any particular order, but just some things people struggle with day-to-day and something that Kendrick’s lyrics tackle vividly on this track.
Similar to the transition in the intro with “BLOOD and “DNA,” this song is a good transition for the song “GOD” as he overcomes his fears and celebrates his downfalls by the grace of God.
Produced by Cardo, “GOD” is a smooth trap beat where Kendrick tries his best SoundCloud rapper impersonation as he embraces God for all the success in his life. Despite worrying about losing it all in “FEAR,” Kendrick enjoys being able to finally provide for his family while laughing to the bank, like ah ha, yeah, that’s actually part of the chorus. Although most people would say this is the worst song on the album, I think it’s catchy and it’s hard to go against a song titled God. However, I think this would have been a great song for Chance the Rapper for his follow-up to The Coloring Book. But if you are not a fan of catchy beats and hooks, this possibly isn’t your song.
The final song to close out the album is one of the best forms of storytelling you will find on a hip hop album, “DUCKWORTH.” On this track Kendrick re-tells the story of Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, founder of Top Dawg Entertainment and Kendrick’s mentor, and his past encounter with Kendrick’s father, Kenny “Ducky” Duckworth.
Kendrick raps about the rough upbringing of the TDE founder and a robbery he committed at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken, which Kendrick’s father Kenny worked the drive-thru for while Kendrick was just a child. His father would give Anthony free chicken and biscuits in order to stay on his good side after hearing the thing he did to previous employees. Once Anthony decided to rob the KFC, he spared “Ducky’s” life.
Whoever thought the greatest rapper would be from coincidence/ Because if Anthony killed Ducky, Top Dawg could be servin’ life/ While I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight
Kendrick is one of the greatest storytellers I’ve heard in hip hop since the days of Slick Rick, Ice Cube and Nas. With songs like “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” and “Black Boy Fly” on his debut album Good Kid M.A.A.D City and going back further to “Ignorance is Bliss” and “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)” on Overly Dedicated and Section. 80 respectively, Kendrick has illustrated novel worthy storytelling through soft beats and melodies. Whether those stories are fact or fiction, it has always been a compelling aspect of Kendrick’s career and continues to pull fans into his music even closer.
In an interview with Complex, “DUCKWORTH” producer 9th Wonder says the story about Kendrick’s father and Anthony Tiffith is true.
“He said yes, it’s a true story,” 9th Wonder told Complex. “Top Dawg has confirmed that it’s a true story. The beauty of that is, he chose to tell that story, and we’re like four albums in. Usually, people will tell that story the first time.”
Not only does “DUCKWORTH” showcase Kendrick’s very detailed storytelling, but also re-introduces fans to how legendary and underrated 9th Wonder is on the production end. He has worked with best in hip hop from Jay Z, J. Cole, Drake, Wale, Ludacris and others, but having Kendrick lyrical destroy not one, but three 9th Wonder’s instrumentals in one song is something special and a great way to end a lyrically driven album.
DAMN. is one of those albums you can listen to all the way through without skipping a beat, but it’s also an album that caters to all genres of music. If you are a fan of aggressive lyrics, club bangers, storytelling, and thought-provoking music, Kendrick delivers on every aspect of your needs.
People will forever debate which Kendrick project is the best. But if you have to debuting on which one is sitting in the top spot, then K. Dot must be doing something right. For now, let’s just give another classic nod to the good kid from Compton and the current king of hip hop.