DAMN. is sonically an enjoyable album by Kendrick Lamar
This isn’t one of those think pieces where the writer investigates all of the ongoing theories involving Kendrick Lamar’s latest album that most of you are accustomed to. You won’t read why I believe he released DAMN. on Easter weekend or the symbolism behind Kendrick dying on the opening track so if that’s what you’re looking for, I’d advise you stop reading. Instead, I’m simply going to discuss why DAMN. is my favorite Kendrick Lamar studio album to date. The black empowerment on To Pimp a Butterfly is inspirational and the storytelling on good kid, m.A.A.d city is phenomenal, but most importantly to me, the actual music on DAMN. is enjoyable from start to finish.
Kendrick Lamar and Drake seem linked for eternity as far music is concerned, for better or worse. There’s this false and forced conception that fans can’t enjoy both artists’ music which is quite hilarious. Whenever either releases a song or an album, there’s always a tweet or an article proclaiming one better than the other for whatever reason and they rarely use respectable evidence to support the claim. Drake stans tend to knock Kendrick’s commercial success despite the fact DAMN. sold more units than More Life and now has the highest debut week sales of 2017. Kendrick stans like to brush off Drake’s technical ability as if More Life‘s “Lose You” and “Do Not Disturb” aren’t as reflective as well as, every casual rap fan’s favorite word, “lyrical” as anything on DAMN.. Ironically enough, I personally believe DAMN. pushes Kendrick ahead a little more as a rapper (For the record, I’m a bigger Drake fan).
Three Mike Will Made-It production credits on a Kendrick Lamar album is something I never expected to see, but I’m pleasantly surprised I did. It’s not as if Mike’s production is something Kendrick couldn’t rap over because he actually made appearances on Mike’s Ransom and Ransom 2 projects, but I always assumed Kendrick’s albums followed a very strict outline that certain producers wouldn’t fit in. “DNA.” is a breathe of fresh air that I needed from Kendrick as well as the tone setting track for the remainder of the album- still very reflective, but with an aggressive “I don’t give a fuck” twist. I can’t help but to think of a more extreme To Pimp a Butterfly‘s “Hood Politics.” Who else can label someone as a “bitch,” their father as a “snitch” and assumes it runs in the family, while discussing murder and scholars in the same verse?
Another standout is the commercially appealing “LOYALTY.” single featuring the Barbadian goddess, Rihanna. Kendrick opens up his verse in a rather monotone voice that works perfectly for this beat as well as complimenting his rather boastful lyrical content. The delivery comes across somewhat lazy, but he already has a résumé that’s real enough for two millenniums so Kung Fu Kenny is obviously in cruise control. What really surprises me, though, is how comfortable Rihanna appears to sound rapping her first verse. Is it safe to say Bad girl RiRi has the potential to fit seamlessly into today’s rap landscape? Probably not.
Despite the countless ear-pleasing songs on this album, my personal favorite of these DAMN. tracks is “LOVE..” The featured artist, Zacari, is crooning all over the chorus in such a beautiful manner that I didn’t finish the album in its entirety during my first attempt because this track was replayed for about thirty minutes. Meanwhile Kendrick channels his inner Future Hendrix by quoting the latter’s hook from DJ Khaled’s “I Wanna Be With You” single and it’s quite soothing. In all honesty, I’m sure even the biggest Kendrick stans were pleasantly surprised with how well it sounds.
With cuts like “YAH.,” which isn’t the prototypical song that casual listeners would come to expect from hip-hop’s golden child, fans of his previous work such as Overly Dedicated as well as Section.80 will find comfort in hearing callbacks as such. As he stated in the closing line of his last verse in “ELEMENT.,” he tried promote positivity on his last album, but DAMN. is a reminder that Kendrick is as versatile as rap artists can be and then some.
When DAMN. was first released, I saw a tweet claiming it to be Kendrick’s Graduation (Kanye West’s third studio album) of his discography. I simply paid the tweet no attention originally, but the more I listened to DAMN., the more that statement resonated with me. DAMN. follows Kendrick’s traditional route of keeping each of the following tracks cleverly intertwined, but cohesive isn’t an adjective that could be used to describe the album sonically. Kung Fu Kenny appears to be transitioning. What exactly he’s transitioning into, I’m not sure, but I’m definitely anticipating his next release and nickname.