Today, we revisit the third studio album of Kendrick Lamar – DAMN., a significant quintessential piece of rap which emits complexity and utter brilliance.
DAMN. is an outstanding work of artistry, telling stories with its rich transitions, creative rhymes and exorbitant beats. Arguably the best raconteur out there, whenever King Kunta spits, we all listen attentively because there’s probably a deep message or beautiful story in between the bars. It’s been three years since DAMN. but it remains hot as ever. Being the first non-jazz or classical work to earn the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music and also winning the Best Rap Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards, the album is a real art in itself. The critical acclaims were so widespread that the top shelves of many charts had to open their arms to its glory.
Attending to, in DAMN., the same issues as he did in ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ with a wider breadth, Kendrick postulates a strong need for constant introspection rather than revolution. Philosophically speaking on how growing up was like for him, human flaws, love, weakness, religion, brutality and fate, DAMN. is an emotionally relatable thriller narrative with every of its verse showing a pellucid objective. Throughout the cathartic album, Lamar plays out a theme that manifests an unintended political tone which is more about his personal growth and society.
The intro, ‘Blood’ started with ‘So I was walking the other day’, and I became keenly attentive immediately. It ended with a gunshot and I was never eager to listen to the rest of an album more.
Reasserting his black pride in the next track, ‘DNA’, the album runs to a self-assertive track, ‘ELEMENT’, before easing into ‘FEEL’.
The 14-track album’s ambience loosens a little bit in the middle with the 3L songs. Loyalty. Lust. Love. Radio-friendly ‘Loyalty’ which featured a rapping Riri went on to win a Grammy for the Best Rap Performance.
The album’s lead single, ‘HUMBLE’ pitches the transition of Kendrick’s life on his way stardom, from syrup sandwiches and crime allowances to riding in Mercedes and going viral on a normal day. The song serves to cohere the album with its transitional effect. It peaked No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100.
Introducing a religious undercurrent, Lamar talks about suffering, talking to God and struggles in both ‘FEAR’ and ‘GOD’.
Duckworth, the last and critically acclaimed as the strongest song on the album tells a story too powerful to doubt and gives the album a fantastic mic-drop ending. It gives a nostalgic narrative of how Anthony, Top Dawg’s founder, spared his father’s life during an assault and how good karma brought Anthony and Kendrick together aiding his journey to stardom, all in vivid and concise detail. The verse “Life is one funny mothafucka, a true comedian, you gotta love him, you gotta trust him”, brilliantly suffices for this story. The ending gunshot in this song gives way to the idea that most of the album is written from the standpoint of a Lamar who grew up without a father to put him away from life-threatening choices. This is only noticeable when the order of the album is reversed; he ends up dying in ‘Blood’ due to his disobedience and lack of proper guidance. The lesson here is that choices aren’t innate but sometimes responses to our environment and that we owe a lot of our good luck to fate.
The various loops, order, versatility and creativity exhibited by this album is a genuine mastery of the art of music. All Hail Kung Fu Kenny!