I bought my ticket on the Kendrick Lamar hype train when he released Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and it blew the socks off me and the music world.
It was a intensely focused almost cinematic exploration of Kendrick Lamar’s upbringing in Compton which gave Kendrick the platform to show off his lyrical prowess and his story telling.
To Pimp A Butterfly came next, a reinvention of hip hop blended with jazz and funk which explored how Kendrick had been allowed to escape his culture, poverty and gang violence through his new found fame and if he had the responsibility to return and free the rest of the oppressed black community that he had previously left behind. It was unique, thought provoking, masterful and it cemented him as the new king of hip hop.
(To be honest with you all, I haven’t properly listened to Section.80 and Untitled, Unmastered was fantastic though I don’t really count that as an album)
Fast forward to two weeks ago, Kendrick drops DAMN. and well… “Damn”.
DAMN. opens with BLOOD., an almost David Lynch like dream sequence of an intro of Kendrick helping a blind woman that has lost something, before being shot by said blind woman. Then DNA. plays and you’re hit with a catchy classic sounding Kendrick bass heavy track that will most likely become your new favourite track, one which you will claim to your friends to be an “absolute banger”. It finishes with an almost trap like break down where Kendrick flow explodes into a hard edgy outro.
So far, so DAMN.
YAH. is next up: a chill slow jam of a sound that allows all listeners to recuperate after such a acoustic battering from DNA.
After this follows ELEMENT., FEEL., LOYALTY. and PRIDE.
These are good songs, especially ELEMENT., which has one of the catchiest hooks on the album, however they are all quite similar and rounded, which does create a kind of blur between each song, even with Rhianna’s feature on LOYALTY. which is great.
By the way everyone, can you see a pattern emerging yet? Please share, like and subscribe if you do…. (you don’t have to).
All the track titles are stylised in capital letters followed by full stops.
Every song seems to be based on these abstract concepts and ideas and they are a broad range of concepts at that. This means that DAMN. is the least conceptual album since Section.80 and works more like a traditional hip hop record than the story driven album of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City or the conceptual societal exploration album of To Pimp A Butterfly.
I think this was the only way Kendrick Lamar could have recorded this album after his previous two, as TPAB wasn’t as radio friendly as CKMC and to be honest who wouldn’t want to let loose after such serious high brow ventures. This allows Kendrick to beat other hip hop artists at their own game by creating an accessible hip hop album like them, yet doing it better.
HUMBLE. seems to kick the album back into gear, with a scratchy guitar distortion and a hard hitting thudding beat to get your head bobbing. This song was released as a single before the album dropped and it accompanied his partial diss track that teased the album, The Heart Part 4.
HUMBLE. further backs up my point of Kendrick proving himself against other current popular hip hop artists, creating a song that sounds like it would feel welcome on the top 40 along with the likes of Drake, Lil Wayne and Future.
After this comes LUST., LOVE. and XXX. which serves as a one two three punch of great tracks that pull you back into the fold. LUST. sounds dark and edgy with haunting samples and accompaniments while LOVE. is ,quelle surprise, a love song which genuinely surprised me from the usually gritty realistic Kendrick.
This is capped off by XXX. which is a great song of three movements which ends with a feature from U2 if you can believe it, which may look bad on paper but it ends up actually working really well.
FEAR., GOD. and DUCKWORTH. end the record.
GOD. is a catchy song with peculiar vocals from Kendrick which will serve as a future sing along at live shows and DUCKWORTH. brings back Kendrick’s mastery in story telling to end the album in an epic sounding tale of chance and consequence.
However it’s FEAR. that really stands out and it’s easily my favourite on the album. It sounds like it belongs on TPAB with it’s meandering funky soul sound while Kendrick raps about different aspects of fear that he himself experiences.
On a whole it’s rather unbalanced with its lull in its first half of the album, and it doesn’t have the story or the themes that elevated GKMC or TPAB, however it’s still another magnificent expression from the current king of hip hop, showcasing his ability to spit meaningful bars and delve into deep conversation whilst maintaining a mainstream appeal that can rival the music sale chart monsters of the current music industry.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.: 8/10
(Now i’m going to listen to Section.80)