As promised, Kendrick dropped DAMN., his fourth studio album on Friday, April 14, 2017. The 14-track album only has three features, which include Rihanna, Zacari and U2.
This album is breath of fresh air in hip hop today. Kendrick literally took the time and his creativity to discuss the sh** that makes us human, which is emotions. Every track Kendrick presents on this album hits things we can relate to and that makes us human – GOD, DNA, LOVE, etc.
What makes it even more unique is that he is one of very few artist right now, at his height discussing these things through his music. He went against the theme that is currently being monetized in hip hop which is of sex, drugs, money and ego – all the things that we are being fed and programmed to accept as a social norm, and reminded us of the bigger picture. Reminded us that we all want love, we all want loyalty, we all believe in a “GOD”, we all experience these little things in our lifetime, so why are we trying so hard to block it all out? We feel that is what HUMANS do, unless you’re an alien or robot.
DAMN. explores the life of Blacks in America but also heavily refers to politics and Christianity. Kendrick’s lyrics touch on significant moments in his life, prayer, the apocalypse, lust, sin and so much more.
The album mostly has a mellow/psychedelic and old school hip hop vibe to it, starting with BLOOD., the most chilling intro I’ve heard in a while. It’s Kendrick using storytelling to captivate listeners and delivering an unexpected ending. He’s dead.
But, in DNA. he’s alive. There is so much going on in this track, I’m not sure where to start. Kendrick raps about what’s in his DNA – loyalty, royalty, richness, creativity, heritage etc. Here he samples news coverage of people criticizing hip hop for being a bad influence on today’s youth and hits them with this line:
“My DNA not for imitation, Your DNA an abomination”
I’m digging the old-school hip hop vibe on YAH. and the shoutout to his niece. However, ELEMENT. holds many references to Christianity as does XXX. FEAT. U2. It’s also a track reflecting on his family life and the deaths he’s witnessed. Additional vocals by Kid Capri.
Note: Throughout the entire album additional and background vocals are provided by artists like Bēkon, DJ Dahi and Rat Boy.
Again, FEEL. references to Christianity and the apocalypse. To me this track is a foreshadowing to Kendrick’s troubles:
“Shit I feel like ain’t nobody praying for me”
Kendrick raps on PRIDE. about his distrust for people. But on HUMBLE. he claims the rap crown while also mocking it. Kendrick not only repeatedly urges other rappers to stay humble, but also expresses his frustration with the industry’s preference on body image:
“I’m so f*ckin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop
Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor
Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks”
Also has anyone noticed that the lyrical intro of the studio version is different than the music video’s intro? Does it mean anything?
“Nobody pray for me, It’s been that day for me” vs. “Wicked or weakness, You gotta see this”
LUST. is an interesting track opting to differentiate the many types of lust, from sexual lust to the lust and ideology of luxury. Similarly, LOYALTY.FEAT.RIHANNA and LOVE. FEAT. ZACARI touch on love and relationships (I love this track!).
Observe these lyrics from FEAR.:
“At 27 years old, my biggest fear was bein’ judged.”
“I’m talkin’ fear, fear that my humbleness is gone.”
“I’m talkin’ fear, fear that love ain’t livin’ here no more.”
Gospel opening. Kendrick speaking in reverse.
and GOD. (4:09):
“Everything I say is from an angel.”
A trap beat? Autotune? Is this Kendrick?
DUCKWORTH. (4:09), is based on actual events (9th Wonder confirmed this in an interview). Kendrick speaks about the experiences of a young man growing up in the projects and about the experiences that follow him. From a dope fiending mom, to slinging drugs and being fully strapped, this song serves as an example of what can happen when a young man puts down a gun and picks up a pen instead. The track also returns to the opening of BLOOD. and ends once again with a gunshot.
Leave any theories or thoughts on the album, in the comments below.
And don’t forget to show Kendrick some love on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @kendricklamar.