What can be said about Kendrick Lamar’s fourth album, DAMN? Concepts, consciousness, and crazy content? Check. Introspection and illuminating the ills of the world? Yup. Stripped-down sound? Yes, and no. At 14 songs and 55 minutes, DAMN is also King Kendrick’s shortest chronicle.
“HUMBLE” is a sonic jam with straightforward structure, but the second single “DNA” morphs into something else midway through. The beat changes and musicality are still there on DAMN, but I will say it has a less “cinematic” feel than his previous work. The interludes, clips, and “in-betweens” are not prominent on this project, but the album is still choc-full of melody and instrumentation to keep one’s ears perked up. Kendrick’s albums always make you feel like you’re in the middle of a movie. And although the intermissions aren’t prevalent this go-around, the story-telling on songs like “DUCKWORTH” allows you to picture the events scene-for-scene. The intro, “BLOOD,” plays like the opening to a film, with Kendrick narrating an eerie interaction between himself and a stranger. The condensed format isn’t a bad thing. It actually plays out well, allowing listeners to go from track-to-track without much, in between. My sense from K. Dot’s die-hard fans was of them wanting more. But even the die-hards will come to their senses, once they realize how dope this project from KFK, aka Kung-Fu Kenny, is.
Kendrick keeps it consistent content-wise, coming with phrases that make one ponder; “Ain’t nobody prayin’ for me,” and “What happens on Earth stays on Earth!” (was cool hearing Kid Capri). These can’t help but make you think Kendrick has been brooding on some deep thoughts, maybe locked away in a dark closet, until he came out a’glow, with “DAMN” ready. “LUST” is easily one of my favorites, sounding like a sped up “Vibrate” from Andre 3000’s The Love Below. “XXX” is also a fav, beginning with a mellow but bass-heavy beat, before switching into an all out assault, sounding like something coming out of Compton from the NWA days. After a couple minutes,, “XXX” switches into a full slowed-down jazzy feel, allowing KFK to flex his prose more. “FEAR” highlights his fear as child, of not keeping his parents’ rules to a T, scared to receive punishment from not doing so. Additionally, Kendrick speaks on his fear of not being the artist and man he’s meant to be, letting down fans, himself, and even God, should his fears become reality (I don’t think we have to worry). “LOYALTY” pleasantly surprised me, as I didn’t know what to expect from a Kendrick and Rihanna mash-up, but they made a jam. I was a little apprehensive, maybe more so than seeing U2’s name featured… K. Dot got that to flow too.
All said and done, DAMN is easily one of the best albums of 2017, and stands up in Kendrick’s catalogue, along with the rest of its brothers. Kendrick Lamar has consistently raised the bar with each project, and evolved his sound while doing so. It’ll be interesting to see where he takes us next. For now, check out DAMN below, and remember to pray for somebody and for yourself, Damn.
*Dern it, if my mom is reading.