TDE is now home to one of the greatest rappers of his generation.
DAMN is Kendrick Lamar’s fourth album, and with this album he shows no signs of slowing his momentum to be crowned the greatest rapper alive. Kendrick has always been known for his storytelling abilities which is what made good kid m.a.a.d city such a captivating listen. On DAMN Kendrick has managed to improve this skill, his story telling ability on this album is such that hours after its release fans believed this album was just part one of a story that would be concluded with a second release. But Kendrick storytelling is at its best on DUCKWORTH. when he tells a winding story about Anthony from Compton and Ducky from Chicago, whose paths cross first over KFC biscuits, and again, 20 years later, when Ducky’s son records a song about the encounter for Anthony’s record label.
Damn is change of direction from the widely critically acclaimed To Pimp A Butterfly, thematically and sonically. If you have listened to TPAB, the first thing you will notice is the production is more hard-hitting and long gone is the jazz/hip-hop fusion. On the second track DNA. we get a trap influenced beat with explosive raps from Kendrick, the production in this track is a bouncing Mike Will Made It 808 beat loaded with bass which never lets up unless Kendrick dictates it to. The production on this album has been mainly done by Top Dawg Entertainment’s in-house production team with appearances from Cali sample genius Alchemist on the Wu-Tang homage “FEAR.,” the internet’s teen guitar prodigy Steve Lacy on “LOVE.,” and North Carolina indie-rap legend 9th Wonder on “DUCKWORTH.” If their involvement doesn’t underscore a renewed commitment to beats and rhymes, the DJ drops from ’80s DJ and mixtape maestro Kid Capri ought to.
On DAMN we see Kendrick channelling his faith but it is not the uplifting faith that you expect from Chance the Rapper, it’s the faith of someone who has given everything to the world, fought his hardest but still believes he has lost. This feeling is prevalent on FEEL. where Kendrick raps “I feel like it aint no tomorrow, fuck the world, The world is endin’, I’m done pretendin”. You get the sense that Kendrick feels that he opened some people’s eyes with TPAB , but that victory was short-lived and America and the world is back to square one. Whilst TPAB was Kendrick being a voice for those who face injustices, on DAMN Kendrick is selfish. Every track name is capitalised with a full stop, there is no discussion. Kendrick has said what he wants, you can decide whether or not to agree with him. The only narrative that matters is his own, but can we blame him? When he speaks for other people regardless of his intentions he sometime receives backlash. With TPAB Fox reporter Geraldo Rivera described Kendrick’s music as “wrong message” for the youth and Kendrick responded on the track YAH. rapping “Fox News wanna use my name for percentage/My latest muse is my niece, she worth livin’/See me on the TV and scream ‘That’s Uncle Kendrick!’/Yeah, that’s the business/Somebody tell Geraldo this n**** got some ambition.” Recently, many feminist accused him of body shaming women who had plastic surgery done because of the video and lyrics to the song HUMBLE.
On this album Kendrick is divided, in certain instances he finds himself with two options, on LUST. he embodies the stereotypical rapper and their monotonous routine of fame and wealth which often involves lust of all forms. In the second verse he delves into the lust people in his position have: room full of clothes, bags full of money: call it loose change, fumbled my jewellery,100k, I lost a new chain. Kendrick tells us all his vices, and in the following track LOVE. is complete juxtaposition, with Kendrick musing on the woman in his life; presumably his fiancé Whitney Alford, whom he has been in a relationship with since his high school days. This ballad is made even more captivating by Jacarai whose disembodied, angelic vocals give us a look into Kendrick’s frailness in the face of love, despite all the women his celebrity status can get him.
When you listen to DUCKWORTH., you get a sense that the album was made around this story of his father and TDE owner Top Dawg. The gunshot at the end seems to loop us back to the start of the album with BLOOD. This album then, has been written from the point of view of the Kendrick that would be alive had Top Dawg shot his father, had the trigger been pulled Kendrick would probably a gang member and from the title we guess he would be a ‘BLOOD’. Instead of being a conscious rapper he would embody the stereotypical rapper he speaks about on LUST. Therefore, on DAMN Kendrick knits us all these narratives but at the end of it, he is just thankful things turned out the way they did, and we the fans are also glad they did, because TDE is now home to one of the greatest rappers of his generation.