When “To Pimp A Butterfly” came out two years ago, it changed the game. Listeners got a chance to hear Kendrick Lamar battle with his demons and take on a world that he was lost in. Over the past two years, however, Lamar has been tight lipped on his next big project. Only a few weeks ago now did audiences get the single “HUMBLE.” Now, the fourth studio album from Lamar, “DAMN.,” has finally been released.
The Compton-born rapper-songwriter has been around for about 13 years now. Known for independently releasing his first two albums including “Section. 80.,” he gained a massive following online and went on to collaborate with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes. Lamar is also a member of the rapper supergroup Black Hippy. The group consists of other major names such as Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul. With all that in his career, Lamar has plenty of experience within the industry and this brings us to his latest project, “DAMN.”
“DAMN.” is a 14-track record that clocks in at around 55 minutes in length. On the surface, this record is Lamar’s simplest effort to date. However, there is a lot hidden in each track. While, stylistically, it all follows the one word, blunt titles, this entire record is straight to the point and does not beat around the bush at all. There is an overall narrative theme that comes into play, which makes listening to this record from start to finish essential.
While “DAMN.” may not be the unrelenting force in the same way that “To Pimp A Butterfly” was, it does not struggle to stand its ground. This record builds upon the whole me vs. the world mentality for Lamar. In tracks like “YAH.” or “ELEMENT.,” there are a few lines that refer to who will pray for him, insinuating that he is struggling more on his own. While he is not afraid to rap about his personal struggles, there are a few tracks that dive deep into the subject. “LOYALTY.” and “PRIDE.” address his overall personal struggle and create some of the heaviest hitting tracks on the record.
Then there is the track “FEAR.” This 8-minute epic takes on all of Lamar’s life in just one track. It raises questions on how one can be successful and still preach all the values that they were once taught. This is one of the strongest overall tracks on the entire record and clearly shows just what Lamar has been going through post-fame.
Now, there are not a lot of features on this record. The few that are there are meaningful and pack a punch. The aforementioned “LOYALTY.” has Lamar and Rihanna going bar-to-bar with one another. Then there is U2 on “XXX.,” taking on the state of America. Finally, there is Zacari on “LOVE.” Lamar shows, through “DAMN.,” that he doesn’t need other people on a record; he is more than talented enough to carry a entire record himself. The few feature spots are tasteful and add to each track instead of taking away from the overall project like other features typically do.
The album rounds out with “DUCKWORTH.,” which brings the entire project full circle. It calls back to the opening track “BLOOD.” in a tasteful way that brings the listener back time and time again, which is the main point with “DAMN.” This record is not meant to be listened to just once, there is so much to unpack that it needs multiple listens to get a basic understanding of what is going on.
Should you listen to it?: Right Away!
“DAMN.” is a record that comes at the listener in waves, not all at once. This makes it one of the more enjoyable listens audiences have had in a while. This is some of Lamar’s finest without a doubt and, whether you are a longtime fan of his or not, it is a must listen. This is a record that other rappers should listen to and learn from. Honestly, it is probably called “DAMN.” because that is what you might be saying once you finish listening to it.
Collegian reporter Alec Erickson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CTV_Ace.