Review: DAMN. Kendrick Lamar

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Kendrick Lamar’s long awaited 4th album “DAMN” has made its debut these past two weeks with a resounding approval from its listeners. This follow up to his 2015 hit “To Pimp a Butterfly” is a tough one to top, but it is certainly a worthy sequel and a testament to Kendrick’s story-telling ability.

Unlike the relatively upbeat and jazz oriented previous album, “DAMN” takes a darker look into the inner thoughts and reflections that Kendrick contemplates with throughout his life. This album focuses on a number of different themes, scattering various ideas and concepts, with such titles like LUST, PRIDE, and GOD. Behind these titles is a seemingly obscure depression, conflicting with massive philosophical issues like those listed in the album. The record seems to hit hard on not necessarily to the answers to these questions that he has, but the strain that the brutal analysis of self worth takes on him. He struggles with his self worth frequently like on the song FEEL, where he feels as though nobody cares about him and nobody is praying for him the same way he prays for others, simultaneously seeing himself as the hero but his “thoughts are still in the basement,” seeming to say that he can’t surface his feelings the way he’d like to. He feels targeted, taking clips from Fox News reports that classify him as a bad influence on the African-American community, each one revealing some of the absurd methods that media outlets like Fox News use to attack performers like Kendrick Lamar.

These opaque concepts are their most bleak when he questions his beliefs in God and in religion itself. These themes are seen at their peak on the songs GOD, FEAR, and referenced on YAH. A majority of these thoughts are summed up towards the end of FEAR, with a long voicemail from a relative discussing the reasons that Kendrick feels neglected and sad, attributing it to his stray away from God and his disobedience of religion. This track in particular delves into the personal fears that Kendrick has, his fear of death, his fear of God, and a slew of other issues.

Aside from the themes of the album, the beats and melodies on this album are solid and lucid. Hard hitting, aggressive beats found on bangers like DNA and HUMBLE are probably the most energetic on the listings. Dreamy songs like LOVE, LUST and FEEL are pleasant listens, despite the hard bass that is heard on a song like LUST that has a hypnotic and soothing taste for the ears. Tunes that have a variety of scattered sounds like on XXX is a testament to his ability to mix aggressive sirens and horns with smooth transitions to piano and bass that has a strange appeal like those seen from contemporary artists like Frank Ocean. Finally, the song DUCKWORTH, a reference to his relative Carl Duckworth heard previously on the album, has one of the most beautiful endings seen by Kendrick, bringing all his scattered ideas together, rewinding the album back to its origins with Kendrick’s anecdote about the blind woman.

Overall, Kendrick has managed to retain his impeccable consistency of highly acclaimed albums, yet always bringing new ideas to the table, this time in a darker tone. Though Kendrick might not think we are grateful for him, listeners of this album would actively disagree.   

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