Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” Review

Release Date: April 14, 2017

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Labels: Top Dawg, Aftermath and Interscope

Producers: Dr. Dre, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, Mike Will Made It, BadBadNotGood, The Alchemist, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, Cardo, Bekon, Greg Kurstin, James Blake, Ricci Riera, Steve Lacy, Terrace Martin, Tae Beast, Teddy Walton and 9th Wonder

Writers: Kendrick Duckworth, Daniel Tannenbaum, Anthony Tiffith, Michael Williams II, Mary Spears, Dacoury Natche, James Blake, Terrace Martin, Steve Lacy, Anna Wise, Chester Hansen, Alexander Sowinski, Matthew Tavares, Leland Whitty, Greg Kurstin, Paul Hewson, David Evans, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., Daniel Maman, Ronald LaTour and Patrick Douthit

Performers: Kendrick Lamar, Mike Will Made It, U2, BadBadNotGood, DJ Dahi, The Alchemist, Zacari and Rihanna

Description: “‘DAMN.’ (2017) is Kendrick Lamar’s profound, blunt, unflinching and complex declaration on life that perfectly follows his success with ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ (2015) and defines his place as one of the (if not, the) greatest rappers working today.”

//DAVID ROBINSON//

On April 12, rapper Vince Staples visited LA’s Power 106 for an interview. During this interview, Staples was asked who he thought the greatest rapper working in music right now was.

“It’s Eminem,” Power 106 host J Cruz said to Staples. “I’ll answer that for you.”

“No,” Staples said. “If we’re talking about right now, it’s Kendrick. Easy. Not even close.”

Staples cited the “slump” that Eminem is experiencing as the contributing factor in him not being the greatest right now, but he also added Kanye West as an honorable mention and explained his reasoning:

“There really aren’t that many kids walking around, saying they want to be Eminem,” Staples said.

Whether or not you agree with Staples is a matter of your own, but what can not be denied is that is going to be very hard for Eminem, Logic, J. Cole, Kanye West or any other rapper to top Lamar’s “DAMN.”.

This is not an album that you can multitask with or listen to while doing something else. In order to fully appreciate it, you have to sit down and take the time to absorb the tracks.

If you do so, the very first thing you will notice is a very jarring and sad story from Kendrick on the first track, “BLOOD.”. Kendrick is killed trying to help someone in this track, which is very creative and powerful because people being killed while trying to help someone is not an uncommon thing these days.

He also explores the issue of police brutality several times in “DAMN.” and we see the effect that it has on him. “DUCKWORTH.”, “FEAR.” and “GOD.” all comment on this issue excellently and artistically describe the impact that this issue has on the African-American community and himself.

The main observation I made from this album is that it flows with religious symbolism, metaphors and commentary. When Kendrick says, “Put the Bible down and go for an eye for this s**t” on “ELEMENT.”, it becomes clearly obvious that Kendrick is speaking out against God and is willing to kill (both physically and spiritually) for his loved ones. The Catholic sins of pride, lust, wrath and envy are also heavily present in the album, especially since two of the tracks are “PRIDE.” and “LUST.”.In “LUST.”, Kendrick says that he needs water, which can be interpreted as the Holy Water of God. In “DNA.”, he explains that he could never conform or follow God’s teachings and practices because of his DNA. “XXX.” is a modern reference to Jesus Christ being tempted by Satan and also uses a fictional character named Johnny as a metaphor. With examples like Chance the Rapper’s “Coloring Book” (2016) and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” (2016), it is not unheard of for rappers to heavily include religious symbolism on their tracks, but I truly believe that Kendrick does this the best and the most realistically because he reflects humanity by challenging and praising God at the same time.

His life story is also biographed in “FEAR.”, which tells three stories from his life; one at the age of seven, another at 17, and the last at 27. The subjects of abuse, suicide, paranoia, race and legacy are all secluded into the track. What this leads to is the audience being able to respect Kendrick as both a talented artist and a man born from hardship.

“HUMBLE.”, which Kendrick released prior to the full release of the album, is amazing and will go down as a rap classic in the years to come. The track radiates with disses towards Big Sean, Donald Trump, JAY-Z, Birdman, Migos, Drake, Meek Mill and many others. He does not hold back at all in “HUMBLE.” and lets everyone know how much he hates cockiness and arrogance.

This album definitely needs a lot of listens to fully understand. It is very negative and sad, but I interpreted the main focus of this album as Kendrick turning away from God and trying to escape the evils of this world, so this is not surprising or discerning to me.

For its creativity, symbolism/metaphors, flow, cryptography and realism, I am going to give Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” an “A”. My favorite track on the album was “XXX.”, but I also really enjoyed “ELEMENT.”, “LUST.”, “FEAR.” and, of course, “HUMBLE.” Take the time to deeply listen to this album if you have not done so already because it is definitely worth it.
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