DAMN. is a strange album. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently. I feel that it’s by far Kendrick Lamar’s most accessible record, yet it could be his deepest and most complicated. It’s an album that will sit right at home on radio or in the club, but it wouldn’t shock me to learn that it’s being studied seriously at some university.
I believe Kendrick is the first rapper of the post-Eminem era to earn the right to be a part of the ‘greatest of all time’ (GOAT) hiphop conversation. If someone looked me in the eyes and said Kendrick Lamar was the GOAT, I would emphatically disagree but I would accept their opinion. Kendrick ain’t seeing Nas, Eminem, Biggie, Ice Cube and Outkast, but I’m not going to be disgusted if you bring him up.
What I love most about DAMN. is also what’s most disturbing about it. It’s anger, darkness and paranoia jumps out in the music. Yes, DNA will bang in your car, it will certainly get it poppin in the club, but sit down and listen to what he is actually saying. Listen to FEEL, PRIDE and XXX… shit, listen to any song on the album and ask yourself this: does Kendrick sound happy? In many ways, DAMN. is Kendrick’s Eminem Show – this is the price of success.
My favourite song on the album, and possibly my favourite Kenny joint is FEAR. The song is seven minutes long but it breezes past. The boom-bap beat is headnoddingly [fuck you, this should be word] perfect and the three verses incapsulate why Kendrick is special, effortlessly changing his voice to morph into a new character. But once again it is the darkness, the utter despair that makes this song compelling.
I could be reaching. The homi could be having the time of his life, and everything could be fine. However, Kendrick is as real as they come and it feels as if he pours his soul into his music. DAMN. feels like a cry for help – but it’s also a reminder of how great rap music can be.