SENIOR STAFF WRITER
Kendrick Lamar hit the ground running in 2012 with his major studio debut, “good kid, M.A.A.D. city.” It was magnificent—a vivacious, dark narrative with immersive music. Beats were of top tier, and the emotion was clear. It would be hard not to think that Lamar has not participated in some form of a poetry slam or has had some other experience with the medium; because he has never been careless, even with his first album, which while good, pales in comparison to his studio work.
DAMN. is a seamless fusion of bouncy party rap and immersive narrative storytelling. It’s hard to compare it to “To Pimp a Butterfly” or “Good kid, M.A.A.D. city” as they all rank on par. This is not to say all three albums sound the same, but rather that Lamar has such a strong grasp on the medium that he is able to deliver greatness consistently.
The producers on DAMN. are star studded, including people who have worked with Adele, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Also, helping produce the album are singer James Blake and legendary hip-hop producer The Alchemist. The beats are strong throughout, with each almost certain to draw the attention and adoration of repeat listeners.
“DNA,” one of the stronger songs off the album, focuses on Lamar’s lashing out against those who see him as a cultural poison—people who will not show their hatred for his blackness, but it will remain sub-tle. The usage of samples from Fox News commentators was clever and incisive. Lamar doesn’t play with people trying to pick a fight. The song fundamentally addresses his background, talking about all the bad places he’s been and how even though that’s always going to be a part of him. That doesn’t mean he gets to be stepped upon and dubbed a “thug.”
Speaking of nobody ever getting to step on Lamar, there’s the lead single off DAMN, “Humble.” It is possibly intended as a diss towards Big Sean, with Kendrick sampling lines from Sean in the song. Big Sean, to refresh, is the guy responsible for “Ass.” That video. Him beefing with Kendrick? He’s going to need a bigger boat.
Another strong song off the album is “Lust,” which is about the lust for a breakthrough and an escape. Lamar does not offer an easy answer, instead getting into the eyes of a person stuck like this. Something interesting is how often Lamr goes after Trump. It wasn’t last week when Joey Bada$$ dropped his own political anthem, and now Lamar is getting vocal. It is obvious as this continues, that the truly talented hip-hop musicians are going to become more vocal about this. It’s an interesting turn in the tides, a movement like this has never truly grown in the medium. It’s likely to be to its benefit.
DAMN. is not a great surprise to those who had already been acquainted with Kendrick, and no surprise for people who had been listening to him since Section.80. Sometimes everyone agrees an artist is good because they are.