Album Review: Kendrick Lamar ‘DAMN.’

Written By: @ April 18, 2017 @ 7:00 AM EDT
0/0

God. Damn.

Whenever Kendrick Lamar drops a body of work it’s sure to create cultural Tidal waves. However, the multifaceted rapper has so many layers you never quite know which Kendrick you’re going to get. Admittedly so, I’m not a big fan of ‘Coltrane Kenny’ who was the representative of his last album TPAB, but enter his fourth and new studio album; Damn. The legendary DJ Kid Capri introduces us to “Kung Fu Kenny”, a more aggressive moniker that holds no punches. As always he’s conscious of his people and systemic oppression, but this time around it feels more personal. Kendrick exposes his vulnerabilities as a man, as a black man, and as an artist.

Never chalk up anything to coincidence when analyzing the specter of Kendrick Lamar. Releasing the project on Good Friday shows how committed he is to delivering his message, and how important the religious undertones are to this body of work. Damn seems to reach the perfect medium between pushing the eclectic envelope and the gritty street kid from Compton that will unleash God level bars on a moments notice.

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Before even listening to the project I was drawn in by the track listing. Every song being one word and ending with a period was intriguing. When you analyze the songs you see multiple juxtapositions. Kendrick seems to want you to listen in couplets, from “Blood” to “DNA”, “Pride to “Humble”, “Lust” to “Love”, etc.

As soon as you hit play Kendrick takes you on a journey. The introductory track “Blood” sets the tone for the entire project. The first words uttered are a recurring theme, “Is it wickedness?…Is it weakness?…You decide”. “Blood” describes the story of a blind woman whom Kendrick sees struggling, and decides to reluctantly help. When he does, this mystery woman shoots and kills him. Was his death a result of weakness in himself for always extending a helping hand, or the wickedness of the shooter?

Mike Will Made It left his imprint with standout production throughout the album. “DNA” hits hard while Kendrick raps, he has “Loyalty & Royalty inside his DNA”. Showcasing his knowledge of self, Kendrick understands where his ancestors come from; a descendant of African kings and queens. Also imbedded in his DNA is “pain and poison”. Kendrick has inherited both positive and negative attributes from the ones that came before him. It is here where he introduces proactively dealing with a generational curse. DNA is also an important track because here lies the birth of Kendrick’s first religious undertone. “I was born like this, since 1 like this//immaculate conception”. Kendrick likens himself as the proverbial savior of rap and of the black diaspora.

With another Mike Will assist, Kendrick’s lead single “Humble” shot up to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Humble really bangs, whether in headphones, at the function, or in the whip. This gritty record takes aim at the competition and serves as the antithesis to the former track “Pride”. Wrestling with pride Kenny states “I can’t fake humble, just cuz your ass is insecure”. Proverbs 18:16 says, “Pride comes before the fall” and Kenny is well aware of it.

Kendrick gives you a little bit of everything on this album. Tracks like “Element” and “Feel” give you context to his mental state. Kendrick states, “Aint nobody praying for me”. Element is the aggressive Kendrick that I love; the Control Kendrick. He puts the entire rap game on notice that he will not hesitate to lyrically take anyone out. Taking subtle jabs at rappers (Big Sean, Jay Electronica) he vows a vast warning, if you say his name he will turn into Candyman. “Feel” is interesting as well. This track gives us a glimpse into how mentally fatigued Kendrick is with helping everyone. Continuing the religious theme he’s done his best to take on the sins and bare the burdens of others despite no one reciprocating his actions. At this stage in the album Kenny is questioning who he can trust?

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With only 3 features, all of which are totally different, you’re not sure how everything will fit sonically. Rihanna, U2, and Zacari all seem to compliment the records well. “Loyalty” and “Love” are smooth radio ready tracks. Kendrick knows how to deliver commercial music without selling out to the status quo of “radio” sounds. You know you’re special when you have Rihanna spitting dope bars on your track! “XXX” featuring U2 gives us a glimpse toward the duality Kendrick is wrestling with. A friend of Kendrick’s, who son just died asks for prayers. As the anointed one, who generally delivers words of comfort he cannot bring himself to pray. “If someone kill my son, then someone getting killed” declares Lamar. Then, in the subsequent brief interlude Kendrick says he has to go to a gun violence rally HA!

The album even closes out in spectacular fashion. The track “Fear” exposes Kendrick’s fears at 3 parts in his life. Despite being the savior he shows you the mental baggage he’s carried at ages 7, 17, and 27. Kenny asks “Why God, Why God, do I gotta suffer” similar to Jesus Christ on the cross asking, “Why have you forsaken me”. The final track “Duckworth” brings the entire story full circle. This is one of the best story telling tracks in recent memory. Kendrick shows how much the decisions you make impact the next generation. In a crazy fate kind of way, Kendrick’s father and TDE president Top Dawg meet under unconventional circumstances. The decisions that both Top Dawg and Anthony did or didn’t make have all led up to this present moment in time where Kendrick bears his success.

This album in totality is great! It’s an amazing, and layered body of work. There hasn’t been a project that has made me think this in depth in a long time. With an already amazing year for music Kendrick drops this masterpiece on us. I hate using the word classic, especially in less than a week, but this project definitely has the markings of what it takes. Only time will tell, but for now do your self a favor and listen to Mr. 1-5! Damn. is a solid 9.5/10

So is the project God Damn good, or nah?
@NajiChill

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34 Comments
  • el jim chapo guzman

    Technically, musically, conceptually this album wasn’t perfect. But it’s way better than j cole’s album. Kendrick took his sound in a completely new direction sonically for the 3rd time and it has come out aight not all that. He was able to make a more conventional sound in comparison to TPAB while at the same time maintaining his lyricism, subject matter, and concepts. I’ll give this album a 4 star rating.

    • wacko

      shut up

      • el jim chapo guzman

        Make me mf

    • Naji

      Just aight? It’s got all the elements- high level bars, dope production, story telling, cohesiveness, radio records. Not flawless but close to it.

    • Naji Grampus

      Just aight? It’s got all the elements- high level bars, dope production, story telling, cohesiveness, radio records. Not flawless but close to it.

      • assasin

        high level bars? he definitely stripped the lyrics on this album

      • el jim chapo guzman

        Not even close naji.

      • Public Hairs

        The beats overall are good but not classic level. He does them justice though. Probably the first knock I’d have against the otherwise consistent album.

  • @NajiChillOnWritingReviews

    You ruined this review in the first sentence by shamelessly plugging Tidal. No wonder this biased website is a ghost town nowadays.

    • Naji Grampus

      Steve Jobs is that you?

      • nah steve jobs dead and hes still pissin all over tidal

        • marty mcfly

          Tidal isn’t trying to make computers, iPods and iPhones. It’s just a site for music.

      • Nataliejulrich

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    • Public Hairs

      I said the saaaaaaaaaaaaaame shit.

  • ToadFewcha

    Since when Rap Radar do album reviews LMAO

    anyways Damn 8.5/10 really dope album Kung Fu Kenny 4 for 4

  • Vurbz Fenomeno

    Nah…this album was aiight. No replay value for me, which is weird bcos i loved GKMC & TPAB. Bars were ok, beats were mediocre. Idk, its a 5/10 for me.

  • emcee fresh

    You forgot to speak on what I think is the common thread of the album, Kendrick’s new found perspective as a Hebrew Israelite. I believe the whole album is centered around that concept.

    Album Name: Damn. the children of Israel are damned as mentioned by his cousin Carl in “Fear” which gives you a “damn” moment sort of like a wake up call when you find out about it.

    DNA: he says “I was born like this, since one like this
    Immaculate conception I transform like this, perform like this Was Yeshua’s new weapon” – Yeshua is the Hebrew way to say Jesus (also says it in Holy Cross) he goes on to say that “My DNA not for imitation, Your DNA an abomination” which connects to the Hebrew belief that the “white-man” is an Edomite and are abominations

    YAH: Yah is Hebrew for God, (YAHWEH) and in here he says “Im an Israelite don’t call me black no more” he also mentions the curses Hebrew Israelites are facing.

    The other tracks talks about the balance between living in the world but being a man of faith and belief and how it can be difficult

    FEAR: fear basically rounds up all these thoughts and to me sounds like the main track of the album especially with Carl’s break down.

    I think it is the most consistent thread throughout his album

  • THE REAL mac DIESEL

    @ NAJI

    Whenever Kendrick Lamar drops a body of work it’s sure to create cultural Tidal waves.

    ^

    WHO THE FUCK IS YOU??!!! ANOTHER TIDAL MASCOT PROP??? B.THOT AND UGLY YELLOW MUST’VE PUT YOU UP TO THAT SHAMELESS PLUG!!!! YOU FUCKIN’ LAME!!!! YOU WRITE LIKE A GIRL!!!! FUCK YO REVIEW!!!!

    #TARAJI

    DON’T HATE ON MY OPINION!!!!

    • Naji Grampus

      HA! Urban support is important…

      • THE REAL mac DIESEL

        STOP SIPPIN’ ON THAT BULLSHIT ASS D’USSE LIKE YA COUSIN B.DOT!!!! LMAO!!!! YOU FUGAZZI QUEENS NIGGAS KILL ME!!!! JAY’S A HIGH PRICED URBAN MASCOT BEING BACKED BY WHITE CORPORATE DOLLARS!!!! FACTS!!!!

        #TARAJI

        DON’T HATE ON MY OPINION!!!!

  • THE REAL mac DIESEL

    SOLID ALBUM!!!!

    #KINGKENDRICK

    DON’T HATE ON MY OPINION!!!!

  • yall niggas doing reviews now? lmao

  • no rapradar give up we aint signing up with tidal

  • Frank Yoster

    Sad ppl praise drakes album..but cant appreciate real rap like jcole or kendrick…drake turned into a french montana fuck boy…

    • diggz

      How is it sad we can’t appreciate the drake album too? That CD was good also. Obviously, 1 billion streams agree.

      • Chronic

        You mean his dancehall cd??

  • KendrickStan

    GKMC was a 10/10 classic. DAMN. on the other hand, 6.5/10 at best.

    • Chronic

      Gkmc was overrated, this is his best overall album to date.

  • BLOCKWORK

    iTS NOT HOT! Stop with the Gas

  • What an amazing album!! Brought through all his old styles + Doing the Drake moody singing thing too, and killing it!!!

  • 9/10? Quit dick riding. All the flashy production techniques and random radio-targeted features in the world couldn’t disguise Kendrick’s lazy writing and rapping on this album. Its a sell out ploy aimed firmly at the Spotify demographic. Style > substance and where there is substance it is just a dumbed down version of his previous messages. Don’t get me wrong, Kendrick at his worst is better than many of today’s most popular rappers at their best. There is still a lot to appreciate about this album and can actually be considered an album unlike his last one but all things considered I’d give it a 4/10/

    • Chronic

      Maybe because he wants his message to reach more people…lets be honest the people who need to hear his message the most are the people who hate his music.