Kendrick Lamar’s new album DAMN has been one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year, after his last album To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) got so much attention, and he teased fans with releasing his single “Humble” a few weeks ago. In many ways, Kendrick is our definition of what hip-hop is today, he sets a lot of standards, so regardless of opinions it’s no question that this is an important album. DAMN embodies many traits typical of Kendrick, his energy, powerful lyrics, and layering of beats. The album has some upbeat songs, but overall is more mellow than his previous albums. Unlike To Pimp a Butterfly, the album isn’t as angry or political as expected, it focuses more on messages about morals and modern human existence.
Shifting into more downbeat rap, melodic and mellow beats, and a more subtle message, the album is easier to listen to than expected for something from Kendrick. The album starts off intensely with BLOOD. and DNA., which include an anecdotal introduction and clips from FOX news anchors talking about his lyrics from “Alright” and hip-hop in the black community. These are both typical of Kendrick, he starts off taking on political messages and making listeners feel his vivid energy. However, the album drops off in the next few tracks, feeling a little like it lets you down after the hype and buildup in the first two tracks. However, there’s something powerful and interesting in the subtleness and mellowness that follows. He lays out the messages of his album: loyalty, fears and dilemmas of fame, pride, and faith. The messages are an inside look to some of Kendrick’s personal thoughts and self-criticisms, making them more clouded and complex. The tracks “PRIDE.” and “HUMBLE.” follow each other and are right in the middle of the album, making for a subtle message of balance and peace. “HUMBLE.” stands out for its lyrics “show me something natural, like ass with some stretch marks,” as he criticized photoshop and potentially attempts to uplift women. However, with a chorus like “bitch, be humble, sit down,” it doesn’t quite fit in or sit right. The beat is more upbeat and typical of a Kendrick song though, and a good break between his more mellow tracks.
Kendrick also has an interesting variety of features and artists he worked with in the album, from Rhianna’s feature in “LOYALTY.” to Kaytranada in “LUST.” and U2 in XXX. He also worked with BadBadNotGood and James Blake, and how different all the artists he worked with are contributes how unique and different the album sounds. Stylistically, this is what makes Kendrick’s sound so brilliant and multi-faceted, he doesn’t fall into one category, but blends everything we love about music into one artist.
DAMN is a highly developed and intricate album, blending many styles and sounds, with interesting features and a blend of old and new messages from Kendrick. It’s a smoother and less intense listen than his other albums, definitely going back to some classic soul and hip hop characteristics, and adding his own personal twist, the album is different than most fans expected, but possibly in a good way. DAMN sends us important messages about politics, morals, current events, and invites us to dig a little deeper in our human experiences while also giving us some really chill vibes. An album as unique as DAMN isn’t easy to find, and there’s no doubt that it will go down as one of the classics of our era.