Home Music and Entertainment Album Reviews Review: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ is sinfully good
Review: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ is sinfully good

Review: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ is sinfully good

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By this point, Kendrick Lamar is internationally known as one of the best rappers in the world. His most recent album, “DAMN.,” serves to solidify his status. Lamar voices his inner insecurities and unhappiness with the current political climate on this record.
       
In the first song “BLOOD.” we are met with the motif of life and death as Kendrick is shot in the song as he attempts to help an old blind woman before moving onto a soundbite from Fox News where a couple of reporters are unhappy with his performance at the BET awards. This song is important in setting the tone for the rest of album.

It segues into an aggressive “DNA.” which boasts of Lamar’s strong heritage and culture, from his flow to his hustle and ambition. He continues to call out those who try and use his success to profit, again including the Fox news soundbite where they use his name in the headlines in an attempt to get more clips. The song is produced by the esteemed Mike WiLL Made-It, who does a terrific job of matching Lamar’s intensity and energy from start to finish.

Further into the album, we are met with one of the three features on this album, Rihanna. RiRi raps along with Kendrick about the importance of “LOYALTY.” in both platonic and romantic relationships. Despite the serious topics covered in the lyrics, it’s paired with a smooth and upbeat production that meshes perfectly. Rihanna has had problems with loyalty from Drake apparently cheating on her and an accountant who almost caused her to go bankrupt. The two definitely pair well on this track and it would be great to see them collaborate more.

Throughout the album, K.Dot includes plenty of religious themes, specifically the aspects of sin and how it affects him as well as those around him. This is most directly referenced in the songs “PRIDE.” and “HUMBLE.” which have a stark contrast. “PRIDE.” is more soft-spoken and an examination of Lamar’s fame and success, while “HUMBLE.” and its accompanying video are grandiose and command you to sit down and be humble.

The instrumentals are paradoxically contrasted to the topics of each song. This along with references from Deuteronomy and the Old Testament create probably the strongest motif throughout Lamar’s discography. From mentions of the devil or Lucy, on “To Pimp A Butterfly” to samples of people repenting their sins on “Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City” it’s easy to say symbols of Christ are never far away on any album of his.

The best song of this album is “LOVE.” It features Zacari, whose heavenly vocals along with a relaxed beat lift the song into ethereal and euphoric sounds as Lamar questions how strong the love is between him and his fiancé Whitney Alford, who has been with Lamar since high school. This song is a perfect break from the darker points of the album and is as close to a love song we will get in mainstream rap. The most powerful lyrics are in the refrain where Lamar laments that without her he’s got nothing.

After we get “XXX” that somehow makes U2 digestible despite their lack of popularity in this decade. It somehow combines a record scratching excitable beat with the slow singing of Bono and the gang. The song features an angry Kendrick who breaks his usual meditative nature and tells his friend, who just lost a son, that sometimes violence is his answer. The song is a great precursor to “FEAR.” that ties back to the life and death motif.

“FEAR.” is a three part song documenting the terror he’s felt growing up, taking part at ages 7, 17 and 27 respectively. First Lamar explores the life of a young child living in a house plagued by domestic violence. Then he talks about being afraid of death as a teen in Compton because of the extended history of gang activity that plagues the city. Finally, now that he’s an established artist, he’s afraid of ruining the success he’s had. The song is dramatic and chilling especially with the inclusion of reversed vocals earlier in the track. It’s definitely one of the songs that stand out in this album.

Overall, “DAMN.” is a strong follow-up to “Untitled. Unmastered.” It’s full of contrasting themes like life versus death, and the difficulty of being as successful as Lamar while staying true to his ideals. While it departs from his jazz-influenced “To Pimp A Butterfly” it continues to let everyone know that K.Dot is consistently great at what he does. All there really is to say is… Damn.

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