Now that some dust has settled around Kendrick Lamar’s fourth studio album, DAMN., it is time to set it in a more analytical light.
The album, of course, tackles topics such as being a king among kings, duality in right and wrong, and duality in what’s “cool.” Kendrick returns with his trademark unparalleled storytelling capability, but this time it is in the form of bold hype tracks and catchy melodies—a style he has explored in shallow waters but never this extensively. Critical reception of this piece has been almost unanimously positive.
Kendrick’s debut album, Section.80, serves as a story that tells the rapper’s story and sole purpose in music. good kid, ,m.A.A.d. city explores what it’s like for a kid in Compton—his struggles with family, friends, gangs, and girls. To Pimp A Butterfly completely flips the script. This story comments on social injustice, battles with the devil (and the devil within), all the while gradually sprouting a narrative expressed to Tupac, one of Kendrick’s biggest idols.
Here is what Rolling Stone has to say about Kendrick’s third studio album:
“His last album, To Pimp a Butterfly, will likely go down as the defining reflection of the America that spawned #BlackLivesMatter, in the same way Pablo Picasso’s Guernica stands as the defining reflection of the Spanish Civil War.”
Needless to say, no one was really sure how he was going to follow it.
Then drops DAMN. At a superficial glance, the album seems like a chance for Kendrick to just spaz and experiment with more fun vibrations. A few more listens, however, and its morals and purpose are far from absent.
Rolling Stone, once again, sums the comparison up perfectly:
“If To Pimp a Butterfly was the best rap album in 2015, Damn. is the platonic ideal of the best rap album of 1995, a dazzling display of showy rhyme skills, consciousness-raising political screeds, self-examination and bass-crazy-kicking.”
What’s more, is that it’s Kendrick’s mom’s favorite album.
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