Following the huge success of 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar transcended rap and became a symbol – for black lives, social awareness, faith and activism. DAMN. is Lamar’s struggle with mortality and his legacy.
K-Dot has gone back to the trap-heavy, classic hip hop beats heard in early projects like Section.80 and good kid, m.A.A.d city; he focuses less on conceptual musical themes than he did on TPAB, and instead throws sonically incongruous elements together to narrate exactly how he is feeling. This shift allows the rapper’s intricate lyrics to comprise the fearless, devastating core of his fourth album. DNA. is the first, unapologetic example of that– an unrelenting lyrical onslaught layered over a monstrous trap beat.
On FEEL. the 29-year-old weighs in on crushing expectations: “I feel like the whole world wants me to pray for them, but who is praying for me?” He definitely hasn’t lost his faith in God, but you can feel his angst toward society. Yes, the lyrical content is deep, but not at the expense of the banging beats and instrumentation we know Kung Fu Kenny can produce: LOYALTY. featuring Rihanna is a slow-jam floor-filler (the King and Queen of hip hop living up to their appropriate titles), HUMBLE. is turn-up music in the realest sense, and XXX is for the hip hop purists. Closing tracks FEAR. and DUCKWORTH. are the most authentic storytelling we’ve ever heard from Lamar, and as the final beats loop seamlessly back into the first, you’ll be ready for another listen.
DAMN. is available at JB Hi-Fi on April 28 via TDE/Interscope.