DAMN. is more accessible than Lamar's previous albums whilst sacrificing none of their powerful lyrics and awesome production. King Kendrick has done it again.
After Drake‘s poor effort with More Life last month, it was time for the real king of rap to come back and remind everyone why he’s on top of the game right now. And, somehow, Kendrick Lamar has done it again with DAMN., an album worthy to be considered his third classic in a row.
Whilst not a straight concept album like good kid, m.A.A.d city or To Pimp A Butterfly, there’s still a story behind DAMN.: on opening track ‘BLOOD.’ Lamar approaches a woman (who many have speculated represents Lady Justice in that she is blind) by whom he is promptly shot, and in the following moments – i.e. the album – his life flashes before his eyes as he reflects on his shortcomings as a person. This makes DAMN. a much more introspective record than his previous projects, focusing on his own demons rather than wider social issues: ‘LOVE.’ (a fun albeit more poppy track) counters ‘LUST.’ (a look at the allure of hedonistic street life), and ‘FEEL.’ addresses the feelings of grandeur mixed with loneliness that come with being at the top. On ‘FEAR.,’ a highlight of the album, he raps over a smooth Alchemist beat about the types of fear experienced at different points in his life: of child abuse aged 7, of the streets at 17, and of the fears that come with fame aged 27. It’s moments on ‘FEAR.’ that make the album title suddenly seem appropriate – upon hearing the sweet soul sample juxtaposed with the line “I’ll prolly die ’cause that’s what you do when you’re 17,” the listener can’t help but sit back and think…damn. The songs hit hard, but unlike much of To Pimp A Butterfly, they’re still easy listens.
Lyrically, it remains dark and depressing, but never excessively so, making DAMN. far more accessible than Lamar’s last few projects. From swaggering, bombastic tunes like ‘DNA.’ – he absolutely snaps over a glorious beat switch here – and the still-catchy ‘HUMBLE.’ to the melodic, dreamy ‘PRIDE.,’ over which his voice drifts in and out perfectly over a slow beat, as well as the unlikeliest collaboration since Calvin Harris‘ ‘Slide‘ with U2 on ‘XXX.,’ which turns out to be another head-bumping highlight. The album once again demonstrates his range as an artist, feeling cohesive whilst still immensely varied. The lush production and Lamar’s variety of flows must therefore be applauded.
There has been talk in the last year or so of Lamar as one of the GOAT rappers, but I’ve never been sure about that, despite having two of the best hip-hop albums of the decade to his name. Now, with DAMN., I’m convinced. Kendrick has put out another fantastic album to cement his place as one of the greats.
DAMN. is out now via Aftermath, Interscope, and Top Dawg Entertainment