Easily the most critically acclaimed MC of the time period, Kendrick Lamar has no contemporaries when it comes to being adored by fans and media alike. Some artists have the commercial appeal, and some artists have the critical praise, but very few artists have both, and nobody has more of each than Cornrow Kenny. Coming off the groundbreaking success of both Good Kid Maad City and To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick’s third lp indisputably was to come with high expectations, and one might have suspected that he was doomed to succumb to all the hype and pressure. Yet you know the saying “whatever goes up, must come down,” well apparently it doesn’t apply to Kendrick at all, or at least not yet, considering despite the laws of gravity this Compton MC continues to go higher and higher, and by all accounts his 3rd studio album is likely the best work of his career.
Without further ado and without any further introduction needed [every publication under the sun has already said everything you can say about Kendrick and more, except perhaps what puts his overwhelming acclaim and appeal in perspective, which you can read right here] is his latest album DAMN. - Kendrick’s latest release critiqued track by track below:
"So I was takin a walk the other day, and I seen a woman—a blind woman—pacing up and down the sidewalk. She seemed to be a bit frustrated, as if she had dropped somethin and was having a hard time finding it. So after watching her struggle for a while, I decide to go over and lend a helping hand, you know? ‘hello, ma'am, can I be of any assistance? It seems to me that you have lost something. I would like to help you find it.’ She replied: ‘Oh yes, you have lost something. You've lost... your life.’ [GUNSHOTS]” this cryptic tale opens up the album and even after multiple listens it comes with more questions than answers, yet even still it’s general tone and vibe is 🔥🔥🔥 all the same. The highlight however is the Fox News excerpt of a few shameful political pundits condemning Kendrick’s artistic qualities on the air, in which Kendrick flips that noise and puts it on his own platform for all of Amerikkka to see. In fact considering the global impact great artists have had throughout history, it’s amazing that Fox News feels so good about being on the wrong side of history being made today, and if this artform ever gets it's just due and Kendrick is one day anointed in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, then Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Eric Bannon, Geraldo Rivera, etc. will all be remembered as some of the most biased and intolerant fools of the 21st century.
“I got, I got, I got, I got, loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA, cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace inside my DNA, I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA, I got hustle though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA” make no mistake about it… Kendrick Lamar absolutely annihilates the opening record of the album, produced by Mike Will Made It that is honestly one of Kendrick’s Top 10 records of his career… this one is the very definition of 🔥🔥🔥 and the music video is even more crazy (and by now it should be noted that Kendrick has definitely mastered the visual qualities of his artistry, where based off this and ELEMENT. alone he definitely has same of the most thought provoking imagery in the game) - one last footnote - the moment where he says “Born inside the beast, my expertise checked out in second grade,” is singularly one of my favorite lyrics I’ve heard in a long time.
“Interviews wanna know my thoughts and opinions, Fox News wanna use my name for percentage, my latest muse is my niece, she worth livins, see me on the TV and scream: ‘That's Uncle Kendrick!’, yeah, that's the business, somebody tell Geraldo this **** got some ambition” Produced by Sounwave, DJ Dahi, & TDE’s own CEO Top Dawg, this record is classic Kendrick with it’s crazy cool mellow vibe that’s additionally 🔥🔥🔥 for it’s additional Fox News jabs that are more than deserving, as we already know. Meanwhile Geraldo can’t take the heat and it’s hilarious. Elsewhere Kendrick has numerous biblical references throughout the record, that of course makes sense in however way you interpret it. Solid album cut overall.
“Most of y'all throw rocks and try to hide your hand, just say his name and I promise that you'll see Candyman, because it's all in your eyes, most of y'all tell lies, most of y'all don't fade, most of y'all been advised, last LP I tried to lift the black artists, but it's a difference between black artists and wack artists” Although it sounds hot… idk how fire that last part is… either way Kendrick definitely does flex on this throughout most of the record, complete with a Juvenile flow and a “If I gotta slap a pussy-ass *****, I'ma make it look sexy” hook that will definitely be enjoyed by many, as it all rides over an absolute masterpiece of production provided by TDE in-house producer Sounwave, Grammy nominated Ricci Riera, as well as the Beyonce, Kanye, Frank Ocean, Rick Rubin co-signed James Blake, who continues to deliver on an influential sound from London that will soon make him nothing less than a household name.
“I feel like a chip on my shoulders,I feel like I'm losin my focus, I feel like I'm losin my patience, I feel like my thoughts in the basement, feel like, I feel like you're miseducated, feel like I don't wanna be bothered, I feel like you may be the problem, I feel like it ain't no tomorrow, fuck the world, the world is endin, I'm done pretendin, and fuck you if you get offended, I feel like friends been overrated, I feel like the family been fakin, I feel like the feelings are changin, feel like my daughter compromised and jaded, feel like you wanna scrutinize how I made it, feel like I ain't feelin you all, feel like removing myself, no feelings involved, I feel for you, I've been in the field for you, it's real for you, right? Shit, I feel like— ain't nobody prayin for me” <<< 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 Produced by Sounwave this has to be the standout record on the album, as it’s certainly one of the best in his all time catalogue, and it’s indeed the Kendrick that’s deserving of all the accolades and acclaim.
LOYALTY. ft Rihanna
“I'm always on your mind, I put my lyric and my lifeline on the line” Kendrick and Rihanna’s first collaboration and it’s a good one, good melody, good lyrics, and Rih Rih swerves on it, ultimately one of the many great records on the project. Video on the way.
“Love's gonna get you killed, but pride’s gonna be the death of you and you and me, and you and you and you and me…” Produced by both Top Dawg & Steve Lacy (of the Internet), this one after many spins I considered to be filler and a definite skip, yet at some point my position seems to have shifted, and ultimately it should be considered nothing less than a decent album cut that adds to the mystique of the album overall.
“Ayy, I remember syrup sandwiches and crime allowances, finesse a ***** with some counterfeits, but now I’m countin this, Parmesan where my accountant lives, in fact I'm downin this, D'USSÉ with my boo bae, tastes like Kool-Aid for the analysts” On this one Kendrick coasts on this instrumental from Mike Will Made It, and personally I don’t think this record is dumb downed for the mainstream audience at all… honestly I think this is pretty standard for the Compton MC, and for the record the music video is nothing but 🔥🔥🔥
“Hang with your homies, stunt on your baby mama, sip some lean, go get a pistol, shoot out the window, bet your favorite team, play you some Madden, go to the club or your mama house, whatever you doin, just make it count, (I need some water), wake up in the mornin, thinkin bout money, kick your feet up, hop in the shower, put on your makeup, lace your weave up” Kendrick really is Outkast 2017 personified, and this really would slide ride into ATLiens or Aquemini with no issues whatsoever. Kendrick floats on the instrumental provided by Sounwave, DJ Dahi, and Toronto’s own eclectic Jazz trio known as BADBADNOTGOOD, making this a solid album cut that all Hip Hop heads will enjoy, mainly for the fact that in its glory it has no commercial appeal whatsoever.
LOVE. ft Zacari
“Give me a run for my money, there is nobody, no one to outrun me, so give me a run for my money, sippin bubbly, feelin lovely, livin lovely, just love me, I wanna be with you, ayy, I wanna be with, I wanna be with you, ayy, I wanna be with, I wanna be with you”California native and TDE affiliate Zacari laced this record and gift wrapped it for Kendrick to make it a commercial hit, and if radio picks it up by August/September I guarantee will be nothing less than a done deal. Kendrick doesn’t do much on this but he compliments the record perfectly, and this is ultimately another great record on the project.
XXX ft U2
“Hail Mary, Jesus and Joseph, the great American flag, is wrapped and dragged with explosives, compulsive disorder, sons and daughters, barricaded blocks and borders, look what you taught us!”Produced by the all star lineup of Sounwave, DJ Dahi, Top Dawg, and Mike Will Made It, and boasting the star studded feature of Bono & Company, this one is simply another solid album cut similar to PRIDE. that takes awhile to fully appreciate. Although the U2 collaboration is a good look, ultimately they’re hardly recognizable and truthfully could have been substituted by a million other artists to fill the same role. Nonetheless this is still a good record all the same.
“That homework better be finished, I beat yo ass, your teachers better not be bitchin bout you in class, that pizza better not be wasted, you eat it all, that TV better not be loud if you got it on” Produced by Alchemist this is another tough record off the album, that finds Kendrick exploring fear in three different instances at ages 7, 17, and 27. Furthermore Kendrick uses a repetitive rhyme structure that he’s showcased many times before (even only a few tracks earlier with FEEL. and even later once more on GOD.), that along with it’s introspective storytelling will likely win fans over with relative ease. Clocking in at just under seven minutes the record also has an outro with more biblical references, and although I’ll probably never write a thinkpiece on it I still respect the artistry all the same.
“Ever since a young man… all I wanna be was a gunman” Unlike the PRIDE. record, after many spins this one’s still arguable filler and a debatable skip for me, yet there’s enough redeeming qualities to sell it as a decent cut for those with acquired taste. I can appreciate the 5 Heartbeats references but truth be told this is one of the least memorable records on here.
“See, at this chicken spot, There was a light-skinned ***** that talked a lot, with a curly top and a gap in his teeth, he worked the window, his name was Ducky, he came from the streets, the Robert Taylor Homes, Southside Projects, Chiraq, the Terror Dome, drove to California with a woman on him and 500 dollars, they had a son, hoping that he'd see college” On the outro Kendrick recruits 9th Wonder for the production 👏👏👏 major respect given for that, and he details a true story from many years ago, where TDE CEO Top Dawg almost robbed and killed Kendrick’s own father when he was working at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Compton. As the story goes Top Dawg (real name Anthony Tiffith) had plans to rob the KFC as he had 'back in 84', yet Kendrick’s father Ducky (real name Kenneth Duckworth) was wise enough to befriend the street hustlers and get on their good side, inevitably sparing himself from any harm intended his way. On this record however Kendrick reflects on those circumstances with great insight and perspective, culminating in his final thoughts as “pay attention, that one decision changed both of they lives, one curse at a time, reverse the manifest and good karma, and I'll tell you why - you take two strangers, and put 'em in random predicaments; give 'em a soul, so they can make their own choices and live with it, twenty years later, them same strangers you make 'em meet again, inside recording studios where they reapin their benefits, then you start remindin them about that chicken incident, whoever thought the greatest rapper would be from coincidence? because if Anthony killed Ducky, Top Dawg could be servin life, while I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight” 💀
Overall K Dot certainly turned in a debatable classic and cemented his own legendary status with this one, as I’d argue DAMN. is the perfect blend of Good Kid Maad City & To Pimp A Butterfly and ultimately the best project of all three. "FEEL." & "FEAR." should be added to Kendrick’s Greatest Hits immediately, as should "DNA." <<< which should be mandatory to play on high volume to get it’s full effect every time. In the end Kendrick once again lived up to the hype and delivered, and even though Hov once said “first they love you, then they hate you, then they love you again,” at this rate it seems that the unconditional love for Kendrick is going nowhere in the foreseeable future.