In the past year, Kendrick Lamar has had a meteoric rise as an recording artist collaborating with big players in the industry ranging from pop princess Taylor Swift (Bad Blood) to Sia (The Greatest) to Queen Bey (Freedom) and becoming a political force in America representing the African American community especially in their stance against police brutality, as in his previous album To Pimp A Butterfly (2015). Considering Lamar is Dr Dre’s protégé, it’s logical that this issue is represented in his music because it was one of the driving themes in the music of N.W.A.. In Lamar’s fourth studio release, DAMN., he doesn’t shy away from attacking this issue right from the start. His clear point of view expressed through his unchanging, firm and steady voice in DNA. in which he deals with the back lash over his previous political charged track Alright, giving a big middle finger to his critics.
Lamar does not shy away from big picture philosophical themes; the seven deadly sins, vulnerability, power, God, politics, racism, life and existence, exploring each of these through both meta and concrete lyrical content. There is a lot to get through, but the album is well paced in its ebb and flow. There are high energy powerful tracks like the trap stylings of HUMBLE. followed by dialed back tracks like FEAR. His soundscapes forge a way forward blending vocal harmonies in perfect consonance and dissonance, electronica, back masking, abstract jazz, samples, Foley sound effects…Considering there are so many elements layered together, without a skilled craftsman behind the music it wouldn’t make sense, but from the first listening you get it.
DAMN. features Rihanna on the track LOYALTY. which is sure to be a huge commercial hit. Irish rocker U2 feature in the refrain of the track XXX., and new comer Zacari lends his smooth vocals to the R&B groove LOVE.
Lamar once again prove why he is the most prominent hip hop artist today. DAMN. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.