Since I started listening to Kendrick Lamar a few years ago he has managed to become one of my favorite rappers of all time and certainly my favorite current hip-hop artist. His last full length to pimp a butterfly made my album of the year very easy to decide and its follow up EP Untitled Unmastered was also one of the best things to be released last year. So the announcement of his new full length DAMN. was greeted by me with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Could he continue this incredible run of form or was it too much to ask?
This week DAMN. was released and so it’s time to start thinking about those answers. However it’s still far to soon to comment of how highly I regard this album. To Pimp a Butterfly only cemented itself as a classic from repeat paying. Only as the tens of plays went to hundreds and the layers of truth and artistic expression were revealed throughout every element of that work did I realise its true merit. A week after the release of DAMN. And I’m still only on the surface but I can say that the surface is looking pretty good.
Modern stronger trap influenced textures make up the key elements in the first half of the album which starts to shift towards samples and acoustic instrumentation on its second half. Kendrick is still on form with his cutting deliveries that often sound like outpourings of pure rage the first time through before you start to notice the subtlety and poignancy in the lyrics. They turn from all out brawls to silent assassins. Laser targeting people, elements of American culture and corporations with overwhelming positivity or vitriol. It will take more time to divulge whats going on in the album but for now all I can say is I’ve listened to it six times and am still finding new things to enjoy and analyse so its looking good so far.
I picked FEAR as my Track of the week because it stood out, forcing me to sit up and analyse it on my first listen. Which I usually try to keep as passive as possible, paying attention to the aesthetics of the album as a whole rather than the individual elements.
FEAR handles Kendricks insecurity in his current position and looking back to the fears that he had during the To Pimp A Butterfly days with a honesty and vulnerability that is often hidden under the bravado of Rap. At nearly 8 minutes its also the longest work on DAMN. But continues the structure of his earlier works by splitting the track up into smaller arrangements, motifs and skits that all blend together to put across the ideas of the overall track. This style of arrangement results in tracks that become very cerebral and almost dreamlike as the characters and feelings thought the track fade in and out the overarching narrative becomes the poignant element to hang your thoughts on.
If you still Haven’t listened to Kendrick Lamar I hope this will persuade you to go further into his work and his back catalog. Missing out on it is missing out on one of the most interesting popular artists working today and someone who actually has something to say about current events, It’s all well worth your time.