Turn Up the Music: DAMN.
DAMN. is the 3rd studio album from Kendrick Lamar. Riding off the wave of the classic, To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick had a lot riding on this album. His album was amazing, Alright became a civil rights anthem, the U.S. has changed, rap is evolving, and people question if King Kendrick is truly a king. Remember, our POTUS even loved To Pimp a Butterfly, citing How Much a Dollar Cost as his favorite song. I STILL like spin To Pimp a Butterfly on a regular basis. Released on Good Friday (with speculation of a second Easter album that was quickly debunked), we had a whole holiday weekend to just begin to digest this album. Here is a quick play-by-play of each track with a couple of listens:
- BLOOD.: Great introduction to the album to frame the content. Kendrick tells a story of encountering a blind woman on the street. He is killed by the woman after asking her if she needs help. Was he killed by Lady Justice? Buckle up your seats for this album...
- DNA.: We quickly discovered DNA is the second single from the album. DNA GOES HARD. At present, it is the song you will have on repeat (I know I do). It’s rousing, energetic, and a rally cry. Also, the video is fire! Kendrick and Don Cheadle going tit-for-tat = Perfection.
- YAH.: Is that Kid Capri? Getting mixtape vibes. We are also introduced to Kung Fu Kenny.
- ELEMENT.: Who is praying for Kendrick? Again, we get themes of lack of trust in those around him, especially centering on his new fame. “I don’t do it for the ‘Gram. I do it for Compton.” This is another one of my favorite tracks and K-Dot “makes it look sexy.” We also get a great reference to Juvenile’s Ha!
- FEEL.: We have his cousin Carl’s voicemail to open this song. Kendrick battles old demons (like the ones he described in To Pimp a Butterfly). How does he keep his focus and concentration with a chaotic world around him? Kendrick exposes a vulnerability many can relate to.
- LOYALTY.: Well, it didn’t take long to have Bruno Mars 24K Magic sample. I love this beat and Rihanna rides the beat perfectly. From YAH to FEEL, Kendrick struggles with who he can trust. He’s trying to capture where his own loyalties are. Great track.
- PRIDE.: PRIDE is Kendrick becoming grounded. He’s battling humility and pride in his life. He finds music as his outlet in this chaotic world. The song is quiet and serene.
- HUMBLE.: 1st single of the album. Love this song despite some think piece controversy of a line or two taken out of the full context of the song, which focuses calling out the fakeness of other rappers. Love the video directed by music video extraordinaire Dave Meyers (who has directed every video you love from Missy Elliott to Pink to Eminem to Britney Spears).
- LUST.: Maybe my least favorite song of the album. Nothing really moves me in this song (yet).
- LOVE.: Is this a The Dream song? Almost songs like one. We see a more confident Kendrick, who is feeling on top of the world. A Kendrick who is looking for love and support.
- XXX.: K-Dot and U2. I wasn’t expecting this. The beat flips in this song are insane. U2’s contribution to the BLM-inspired song was fitting and appropriate (even a tad too brief).
- FEAR.: FEAR highlights the everyday fears of Black men in America. The fears of successful Black men in America. “How many accolades do I need to block denial?” The constant fear of death harbored by Black men via various means. Love this track, but it’s a tough listen.
- GOD.: Another solid song. I need a few more listens of this song and how it fits with everything (especially if played in reverse).
- DUCKWORTH.: One of the best productions from the album. “Put it in reverse.” What does all of this mean? A week after the album release is not enough to deconstruct every song or the collective album. Word is that you also need to listen to the album (or just some lyrics) in reverse, which I have yet to do. Which means he is shot (dies?) at the end of the reverse album.
Overall, I love it. It is still early to call whether or not the album can be considered a classic (ya’ll youngins do this way too early). However, I fell in love with the album in its entirety in a single listen. As stated, there are still lyrics to decipher and messages to deconstruct, but we have plenty of time for that. I REALLY wish he would do a full visual album ala Beyoncé for this album, especially since the videos for the first two single are incredible. But I digress. In my eyes, King Kunta can keep his crown.