King Kendrick returns! After the release of two sensationally important records in Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar had the impossible task of continuing the momentum as the best in the game. The result is DAMN., a record that offers little in the way of concept but does succeed at illustrating the man amongst the fame, attention and expectation.
DAMN. is the third record to come during the peak years of Kendrick Lamar’s career and while it doesn’t have an overarching theme, it does offer an aggressive side to Kendrick’s sound. As expected with his records, Kendrick’s lyricism and flow are sublime, and while the instrumentals detract away from the jazz-influenced sounds of To Pimp A Butterfly it does deliver tracks steeped in layers of percussion and strong beats throughout, allowing this aggression to ram itself into the eardrums. There are some immediate hits such as ‘DNA.’, ‘LOVE.’ and the Rihanna-accompanied ‘LOYALTY.’ that do a great job at appealing to the masses while maintaining a similar vibe to the deep cuts.
Kendrick uses this record as a way to project the numerous thoughts that seem to overwhelm him, as well as tackling certain big topics such as Religion, Emotion and Hate, but uses the song titles as a way to talk about the anxiety and hatred he’s felt over the years. Sporadically he mentions how his listeners always expect the best from him but never care enough to care about him. This slight reference to the supply and demand predicament he finds himself in affects his faith, with DAMN. routinely offering bars and lyrics that have him considering his moral values.
It’s a substantial topic to discuss but comes across so scattered because of the constant twists and turns into different directions the album has, which may have been the purpose of DAMN.. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City talked about Kendrick’s childhood and growing up in Compton, whereas To Pimp A Butterfly reflected on the culture of his livelihood, and on the state of the world itself. These were both two heavily constructed records that produced an impactful listen all across the industry, and put a lot of pressure on Kendrick to continuously create equally strong projects over and over again.
So DAMN. is the project designed to make the masses realise that Kendrick Lamar is a human being, and that all of the expectations and pressure thrown upon him are going to make him crumble. This crumbling is heard all across the record, and it’s scattered thought patterns add a real spiralling effect to it, driving all these points home.
DAMN. is Kendrick’s attempt to sound like he’s back home in Compton, producing a mixtape-esque set of songs that don’t follow the same path and instead sought to be as hard hitting as possible. It’s an entertaining listen for sure, but lacks the cohesive concept that made its predecessors so successful. But it’d be crazy to think that Kendrick could make lightning strike thrice, so we should enjoy this album for what it is.