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DAMN.

The Title of Kendrick Lamar's New Album Speaks For Itself

Christopher Gutierrez, Staff Writer

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DAMN. is the long awaited 4th studio album from Kendrick Lamar. The Compton native has taken two years to release his next album following the release of “To Pimp a Butterfly” in 2015. Since then, Kendrick did release a compilation album, Untitled Unmastered, which compiled various segments of songs that were either cut from albums, or had other reasons for not being released in a full length album. But on April 14, 2017 Kendrick Lamar released “DAMN.”, and he got the rap game talking, with multiple respected figures in the rap game debating whether or not Kendrick Lamar should be held in the same regard as Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Nas and Eminem as one of the greatest rappers of all time.

The album begins in true Kendrick Lamar fashion with BLOOD, strange vocals followed by a story told with a hidden meaning that will continue to be unclear until the end of the album. The story, told as if Kendrick was a pastor speaking to his congregation, is about a man who helped a blind woman find something, only to be shot for his troubles. The song serves more as an intro than an actual song, but it introduces the album very well. The intro is then accompanied by DNA, a much louder, harder rap song. DNA talks about the perception of rap by other people, and it details Kendrick taking aim at people who criticize his music as violence. The main target in DNA was Geraldo Rivera, specifically one of his statements, “This is why I say that hip hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.” Kendrick uses this sound bite to completely switch up the beat from a standard rap song, to a hard beat drop followed by an angry Kendrick rapping about his craft, and the sense of perfection that should go with it.

The next part of Kendrick’s album focuses more on his ability to write songs with a very deep meaning behind them. For instance, his calmer, subliminal message to god in YAH followed by his story as a rapper who came up through his own hard work in ELEMENT. These songs are more focused on making the listener think about the lyrics through multiple listens, rather than to just make songs that sound great. That being said, these songs do not skimp on great sound, with YAH being a calmer, low down listen that is then accompanied by a still calm, more passionate Kendrick in ELEMENT.

Next in Kendrick’s album comes FEEL, a song about his mixed feelings when it comes to his place in rap, whether his family and friends are real to him, before he finishes by asking if his fans care about him as much as he cares about them, hence the chorus, “ain’t nobody prayin’ for me.”

Then, comes a criticism in DAMN, FEEL seems meant to be followed up by the song PRIDE, than by what it is actually followed up by, LOYALTY. FEEL and PRIDE seem to complement each other better, as FEEL is Kendrick rapping very passionately about his feelings of mistrust and questioning in his lifestyle, and PRIDE is Kendrick more calmly talking about similar things. FEEL also seems to be a song that spurs thought, and the slow, melodic, and smooth sound of PRIDE just seems to fit much better as a follow up than LOYALTY is.

Then, the album hits a few songs which seem to all fit in the real world’s problems. HUMBLE, LUST, LOVE, and XXX are all Kendrick’s viewpoints on various things that have concerned him recently. HUMBLE seems to be a song dipped in the rap game, seething with subliminal disses and a trap inspired beat that lets Kendrick go bar for bar with whoever he is talking about in the song. LUST then speaks on people’s superficial obsessions in life. It talks about the obsessions men and women have with sex, drugs, drama, and other things. Their obsessions are so deep that things like the most recent presidential election are completely overlooked so that they can continue on with things that don’t matter. LOVE then takes on a 21 questions style to the concept of a love song. Kendrick asks what love is, how much integrity his significant others have of his love, and if he loves the people he is with. XXX then takes a completely different take than what the title would suggest. XXX dissects America’s views and effects on violence in ghettos. He cites a friend’s story about losing a son to violence due to lack of money, and echoes a sentiment of violent retaliation to violent actions.

FEAR GOD DUCKWORTH, the phrasing of the last three songs is no coincidence. FEAR is a masterpiece of a song without a doubt. The longest song of the album has four verses, and each verse details what Kendrick has feared the most in different facets of his life. From fearing an abusive mother, all the way to fearing being a failed artist, the song takes a classic old-school type beat through four fantastically written stories about a man who has lived a life of fear. GOD seems to me to be a follow up of the sentiment on YAH. Kendrick talks about God in a way that suggests that he knows God is watching him sin time and time again. For every sin that Kendrick commits, he still says “This what God feel like.” Then DUCKWORTH, named after Kendrick Lamar’s real last name, tailends the album as an anomaly. There is no other song like DUCKWORTH on DAMN, which makes it even more impressive. DUCKWORTH is a raw showcase of Kendrick’s storytelling abilities in musical format. The song pairs a mixture of an old and new school beat, while he details a story in which his father was almost murdered by the producer which would later turn Kendrick into one of the greatest recording artists of all time.

I believe this album has all the ability to become a classic, and it fully deserves to be, considering the brilliant artistry that Kendrick Lamar pumped into every single song on the album, as well as the fantastic producing ability displayed by Top Dawg Entertainment. That being said, this album was not without it’s problems. My main problem was with one particular song, Loyalty. The song seemed more designed to cater to Rihanna’s feature than to cater to the album. It really disrupted the flow of the rest of the album and didn’t seem to have a place anywhere. Because of that I don’t think the album is worthy of a perfect score, so I would give it a 9/10.

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