No word is more fitting to describe Kendrick Lamar’s latest album than the actual title of the project: DAMN. The album is by far his most personal project to date, with Lamar deeply reflecting on his own challenges, relationships, media criticism and even religious beliefs. The incredible amount of emotional range exhibited in the album gives it a broader tone full of confessions, frustrations and reflections.
The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 thanks to mainstream hits like “DNA” and “HUMBLE,” but DAMN contains superb lyrics and rhythms in almost every track. Here are some of the highlights on the album.
The album opens with “BLOOD,” where Lamar shares a dream in which he tries to help a blind woman find a lost item, but is told that he’s the one who has lost his life. This is an ongoing theme throughout the album, with Lamar constantly referring to the concept of wanting to help but losing himself in the process. This story comes full circle in “DUCKWORTH,” where Kendrick tells the detailed, fantastical story of the start of his career with an unexpected twist.
“ELEMENT” is another surprise on the album where Kendrick shows us his more aggressive side, differing from the passive Kendrick that we’re used to. He makes it clear that, despite the fame, he feels like no one has his back with lines such as “All my grandmas dead/ so ain’t nobody praying for me, I’m on your head.” He then goes on to rap that his real life is not the same life we see on TV, which, again, attests to his duality.
“PRIDE” is a brilliantly soulful track that is rich in both production and lyricism. Kendrick chooses to speak about the negativity of pride, while analyzing and criticizing the world’s imperfections. It’s simply a delightful song and a well needed pause before kicking into the next, highly energetic “HUMBLE”.
“XXX” might just be the most controversial song on the album, where we’re given another glimpse of the more aggressive Kendrick. He addresses being black in America, makes references to Job from the Bible, and goes on a spur of violent lyrics over a Mike Will Made It-produced beat. When a friend in need of closure calls Kendrick, the rapper advises; “If somebody kills my son, that means somebody getting killed,” and goes on to promote self-serving justice and violence. He finishes the track at a convention talking to kids about gun violence and politics, with additional vocals by U2. Yes, it’s as good as it sounds.
Produced by The Alchemist, “FEAR” is another soulful and insightful track that shows Kendrick at his most vulnerable as he lists his greatest fears and his falling off from God. From the perspective of a younger Kendrick, he depicts how his mom raised him and then prophecies his death on the next verse. Although it seems that he’s come to terms with all these fears, he still sounds uncertain. If you only listen to one song on the album, then “FEAR” is definitely the one.
In addition to the tracks mentioned above, DAMN contains other pleasant surprises like the Andre 3000-inspired “LUST,” and “LOYALTY” featuring Rihanna. The album is a new stepping stone for the Compton native, and it has fans eagerly waiting to see where he’ll go next.
By Edwive Seme