Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” wows with its insightful lyrics and outstanding production


Photo courtesy of Top Dawg Entertainment

Alex Toth, Reporter


Photo courtesy of Top Dawg Entertainment

Kendrick Lamar has always been one of my favorite rappers, as he was one of the artists that I listened to when I first started listening to rap music. I loved “Good Kid M.A.A.D. City” and “To Pimp A Butterfly” for their raw lyricism, relevant topics and great production. I expected no less from his newest release, “DAMN.”

Lamar’s presence in the rap industry during the past few years has been as strong as ever recently. Off the back of his last release, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” Lamar hasn’t seen this amount of hype since his hit song “M.A.A.D City.”

Lamar’s previous releases always followed a consistent theme or narrative. They always felt like a self contained story or statement while the individual songs could stand on their own, and this is what I liked most about his music. “DAMN.” strays away from that idea upon a first look. There’s nothing one can pin down as a whole theme that flows through the album.

I found that upon further listens of the album, the tracks somewhat represent different sides of the human condition. You have “FEAR.,” “LOVE.,” “LUST.,” and “PRIDE.” which all have things to say about the subject of the song title. Whether it’s getting lost in pridefulness, confusing love with lust, or fear of death. It’s definitely a much more emotional and personal album than any other of his releases.

I liked the new direction Lamar tried to go for with “DAMN.” instead of making a big statement about politics, he kept it simple, and wrote about everyday problems all humans go through, and while there still are political moments, I commend him for not getting too political.

Lamar has always been known for his astounding lyricism. Ever since his debut album “Section.80,” Lamar has been astounding audiences with his ability to write a song well, and on “DAMN.” it’s no different. The lyrics tell stories of abuse, drugs, fame, and crime so well that it’s hard to find a comparable rapper in 2017. Songs like “DUCKWORTH.” and “FEAR.” are so lyrically dense that it’s easy to let a great bar slip past you, and in some cases, it took me three to four listens to fully understand what a song was trying to say.

After Lamar’s last album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” the bar was set high production wise. And while I wasn’t expecting the exact same jazzy, laid back and occasionally in your face production style, I was hoping for something similar. What “DAMN.” turned out to be was somewhat typical for hip hop’s standards. There were a few nice trap beats, a few that strayed towards the experimental side, for example “YAH.” or “XXX. feat. U2,” which happened to be two of my favorite songs off of the album.

The song “PRIDE.” takes a completely different direction than the rest of the album though, It has a neo-funk, soul feel that might not normally turn out too well, but in Lamar’s case was pulled off perfectly. While there is rapping on the song, the meat of it comes from the twanged out guitars, jazz style drums, and ethereal vocals. This song is easily a highlight of the album, and is reminiscent of “To Pimp a Butterfly’s” unusual style.

With all this being said, “DAMN.” isn’t a flawless album. The song “GOD.” and “LOVE.” feel a bit commercialized. While I liked the lyrics on these tracks, the structure and hooks feel a bit mass appealing, and they come off a bit out of place. Another minor issue I had with the album is how jumbled it feels.

The songs don’t flow as well as they could, and it could definitely benefit from a rearrangement. For example, right after the slow, relaxing “PRIDE.,” Lamar jumps right into “HUMBLE.” which is one of the faster paced, in your face tracks on on the album which is jarring every time I listen to it.
“DAMN.’s” simplicity, aggression and message make for a Kendrick Lamar listening experience that’s unlike any of his other albums. Seeing his self evaluation and internal struggles put into song is equally intriguing and entertaining. It’s definitely one of my favorites from this year and will go on to be one of Lamar’s best releases.