(AllHipHop Review) Kendrick Lamar can’t miss. He’s had four straight critically acclaimed projects, some of which are arguably classics. After teasing an April 7th release on “The Heart Pt. 4,” the Compton rapper returned with his fourth studio album DAMN. On Good Friday.
Two years ago, Kendrick blessed hip-hop heads with his jazz-influenced third album, To Pimp A Butterfly, featuring grammy-winning singles “i” and “Alright.” A year later he dropped Untitled Unmastered, a compilation of previously unreleased material. While both projects were received well, some felt K. Dot’s message was lost in the overall musical complexity of the songs. DAMN. is a departure from that sound with a strong focus on lyricism, but was switching it up the right move for Kendrick’s career?
I’ll admit I wasn’t too excited when I saw the album cover and tracklist. I didn’t think I wanted to hear Kendrick over a Mike WiLL Made-It beat or collaborating with U2 or Rihanna, but I was dead wrong. I actually thought those were three of the album’s best songs on DAMN.
To say this album had its moments would be an understatement. I usually have no interest in at least one track per album, but I really can’t complain about anything DAMN. has to offer. Instead, I’ll pick some favorites:
“FEAR.” One of my favorite parts about Kendrick’s music is his ability to paint a picture without telling a story. He does that perfectly here, giving us a look at three versions of Kendrick (akin to Chappelle’s The Three Daves skit) — the 7 year old, 17 year old, and 27 year old — and more specifically what he feared and where that fear took him. In the fourth verse, he opens up about his current fears: losing creativity, changing within, and not leaving an impact.
“DUCKWORTH.” This track is made for hardcore K. Dot fans, and it’s by far my favorite track on the album. Kendrick gives us some history on Anthony “Top-Dawg” Tiffith and his father, Kenny, including how the two met. A smooth 9th Wonder beat provides the perfect backdrop and the song ends with the start of “BLOOD.,” a reminder to the listener to run this album back.
* Honorable mention goes to “GOD.” for K. Dot’s ability to master any style and his ridiculously weird flow during the bridge.
As usual, the release date, album cover, track titles and lyrics have fans scrambling to decode King Kendrick’s hidden messages. Personally, I thought DAMN. was an attempt at simplicity from a rapper whose music has become increasingly complex and conceptual over time. But when you consider the Good Friday release date, the seven deadly sins references in the track titles, and the many references to religion in the lyrics, it’s clear that this is a concept album — although I’m not sure what exactly the concept is. Don’t worry, a slew of highly trained rap forum members are on the case.
But forget about all that. When you strip this album of its possible concept, the result is 13 solid tracks, both musically and lyrically, and a partial return to the straightforwardness and lyrical brevity that made him the king of Compton — all of which equate to another bullseye from K. Dot.
Listen to DAMN below.