Kendrick Lamar’s third studio album DAMN. saw him break into the mainstream. With his most emotive record to date, the rapper sets a high standard, giving politically aware and socially conscious messages while maintaining incredible lyricism and wordplay. Reworking the religious undertones of his first album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, DAMN. gives way from the jazz leanings of To Pimp a Butterfly for a more aggressive and traditional sound as Lamar raps about his past and explores his growth as an artist.
With juxtaposition in the structure of the track list which sees ‘PRIDE.’, ‘HUMBLE.’ and ‘LUST.’, ‘LOVE.’ right after each other, DAMN. is evidently a well thought out album. There have been multitudes of conspiracies over the arrangement of its tracks, with Lamar himself stating in an interview with MTV that the album is a different experience when listened to backward from final track ‘DUCKWORTH.’ to first track ‘BLOOD.’ The release of DAMN. COLLECTORS EDITION. seems to have spawned out of this, with Lamar choosing to re-release the album in reverse for his fans.
My favourite thing about DAMN. is its replay value as it’s filled with hits. Unlike Lamar’s older albums the cohesion of this record isn’t as strong, however, this means that each song can be enjoyed individually without the need to listen to every single track to appreciate it as a whole. With just 3 features from Rihanna, U2 and Zacari, DAMN. remains focused on Kendrick Lamar’s story with no instance of opposing styles, ‘XXX’ with U2 surprisingly being one of the best songs on the album.
‘HUMBLE.’, the album’s first single is representative of its entirety. Kendrick reflects on his past and essentially comes to claim his throne as the King of Rap and this record is irrefutable proof of this as it stands tall with the best hip hop and non-hip hop albums of 2017. DAMN. did the impossible task of living up to the standards set by To Pimp a Butterfly and truly deserves its spot as the second-best album of the year.
DAMN. was released on April 14 via Top Dawg Entertainment