Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Kendrick Lamar does it again with album — DAMN.

Waverly Hart
Contributing Writer

After creating one of the most critically acclaimed and socially influential hip hop albums, To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar has returned with an LP divergent from his earlier works, but no less exceptional.

DAMN., the fourth studio album from the Compton-based rapper, consists of 14 tracks in which Lamar recounts his own life experiences and stories, criticizes the right-wing media and makes meaningful references to the Bible, combining all of these mechanisms to create a reflective and somewhat political LP.

DAMN.’s opening track, “BLOOD.,” begins with spoken lines by Kendrick that set the tone for the rest of the album. He tells a parable of meeting a blind woman on the sidewalk, who later tells Lamar that he has lost his life. The track goes on to sample an excerpt from Fox News, in which political commentator Eric Bolling recites and criticizes a line from Lamar’s “Alright.”

Throughout the album, Lamar mentions Fox News several other times on songs such as “DNA.” and “YAH.” These references, along with the mention of the disbelief that many Americans felt after the 2016 election, portray Kendrick trying to deal with the aftermath, returning to the regular cycle of life after the Trump election.

This is part of the reason DAMN. is so different from TPAB. In his previous album, Kendrick was trying to motivate and inspire a group of people, evident by the Black Lives Matter advocates adopting “Alright” as the “We Shall Overcome” of the 21st century. However, DAMN. is a more personal album, one that Lamar uses to tell his individual stories and life experiences.

The last track is completely dedicated to the single unbelievable story of Kendrick’s father coincidentally meeting the head of Kendrick’s current record label, Top Dawg Entertainment. With the line, “Because if Anthony killed Ducky/ Top Dawg could be servin’ life/ While I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight,” Lamar tells the audience how his life could have easily been flipped.

Another difference from TPAB are the background beats and music heard under Kendrick’s rapping. DAMN. moves away from the jazzy, soulful instrumentation and instead uses traditional hip hop beats and sounds that put more of an emphasis on the lyrics Lamar is rapping. The overall effect of which creates an easier to listen to and more accessible hip hop album.

Like other Kendrick works, it is full of both implicit and explicit allusions to religion, even citing a specific line from the Old Testament on the track “FEAR.” Even the release date for the album, April 14 (Good Friday) added to the underlying biblical meaning of the album.

DAMN. does not represent a decline of Lamar’s abilities in the slightest. The album has party anthems like “DNA.” and “HUMBLE.,” intermixed with more reflective and pensive tracks, such as “LUST.,” which details the repetitive and monotonous nature of Kendrick’s life.

If there was any worry Kendrick would recede from popularity after TPAB, these worries are alleviated with DAMN., which is already on track to be the best hip hop album of 2017.

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