The student of the old school and a leader of the new stands high above his peers
“In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king” – Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus
This proverb fits the current status of Compton emcee Kendrick Lamar like a glove. In a Hip-Hop landscape cluttered with “mumble rappers”, “trap stars”, and “hip-hop crooners”, K-Dot stands above them all with yet another solid outing in his third album release entitled DAMN.
If you count his mixtape/album Section. 80, K-Dot is four for four in my opinion.
Kendrick’s latest album, tonally, falls somewhere between his debut Good Kid M.A.A.D. City, and the Grammy Award-winning To Pimp A Butterfly. DAMN is a project that finds a perfect spot between conscious and hardcore Hip-Hop.
The brash and simple cover art draws you into the mystery of the album’s concept. Like most of social media, I found myself saying “What the hell is this?” as I tried to wrap my head around its meaning.
The album features production from Mike WILL Made-It, Alchemist, BADBADNOTGOOD, and more. Artist features include Rihanna and U2.
There are also a couple of the jazz homies returning from their dope work on To Pimp A Butterfly, in saxophonist Kamasi Washington, Terrace Martin and Thundercat. Kendrick also plays keys on the U2-assisted “XXX”.
That’s not even the half of the talented artists and musicians that contributed to this album. The dope part of it all is, you wouldn’t know it if you didn't read the credits. Everything comes together seamlessly.
The album opens with the track “BLOOD”. It has producer Bekon on vocals singing “Is it wickedness? Is it weakness? You decide. Are we going to live or die?” I found myself locked in from there.
Kendrick then goes on to tell a story about a blind woman who is looking for something and he decides to lend a helping hand. No spoilers but once the second track “DNA” hits, I’m nodding in agreement.
BLOOD? DNA? Yeah, the concepts continue throughout the album. This is what makes Kendrick’s projects such a joy for music lovers. Not just Hip-Hop fans, but people who appreciate the time, concentration, and discipline it takes to stay committed to an idea and see it through to its conclusion.
Kendrick continues through an assortment of topics and flows - from calling out the suckers, to missing woman with natural body parts, to struggling with trust issues. Ladies and gentlemen, food for thought is what the brother does.
Standout tracks include “FEEL”, “LUST”, and the Alchemist-produced “FEAR”.
FEAR finds Kendrick talking about all of the fear he has dealt with growing up in the hood. From gang- related threats, to stray bullets that could kill him at any given moment, to the list of house rules that if broken would lead to the inevitable “ass whooping” from his parents. He closes the song explaining how that “fear” has followed him into his successful music career. These are the makings of classic material.
I could go on about the layers, but that would be a disservice to every music lover that shows a ounce of interest.
You need to experience it for yourself.
DAMN advances the legacy that is Kendrick Lamar, a student of the old school and a leader of the new who stands high above his peers with another hot album in what is shaping up to be one of the dopest catalogs in Hip-Hop history.
While his peers blindly chase money, fame, and other accomplishments, King Kendrick is only focused on the astonishing.