By: Harrison Hensley ~Guest Writer~
Kendrick Lamar doesn’t think he is just one of the top five rappers right now: He thinks he is numbers one through five. His last LP, To Pimp A Butterfly, was met with praise from both the hip hop and greater music communities. With a heavy jazz-influenced production, people wondered what direction Kendrick would take next. More jazz? Rock-nroll? Polka? Country? Disco? Although he is probably capable of rapping over anything, Damn. is a return to Kendrick rapping over more traditional hip hop production, and that is not a bad thing at all.
The album contains everything that makes Kendrick Lamar himself: Impressive rhyme schemes and penmanship, fantastic production and captivating storytelling. Each track is impressively complex and introspective, which is becoming increasingly scarce in the genre. It never feels like he is talking about nothing.
On the album cover, Lamar looks tired and angry. This vibe is conveyed throughout the album. The first four tracks heavily reference Fox News clips of anchors talking about Kendrick’s negative impact on the youth. Another common theme throughout the tracks is the idea of nobody praying for him. The weight of the world seems to be on his shoulders.
Although the album must be heard in its entirety to fully appreciate the various concepts, there are several standout tracks. The first full track, “DNA.,” is possibly the hardest hitting and most chaotic song Lamar has made so far. The second half of the song feels like a thousand fireworks going off in a car driven by a rabid grizzly bear going 120 MPH down the wrong side of the highway next to an erupting volcano.
Another strong track is the album’s lead single, “HUMBLE.” The production and lyrics are instantly catchy.
The censored versions will probably be featured on every JV basketball team warm-up playlist for the next few years. “XXX” gives listeners a taste of the storytelling that is now expected of Lamar.
The track, a collab with U2, illustrates a conversation between Kendrick and a friend whose son was recently killed. It is filled with raw energy, and it also features the one and only Bono. “FEAR.,” the longest track, displays “Kung Fu” Kenny’s lyricism. Each verse deals with his different fears and different points of his life. Overall, the LP lives up to the high expectations. If you are a hip hop fan, check it out. Kendrick is clearly continuing his winning streak.