Kendrick Lamar – DAMN [Album Review]

K. Dot’s 4th album titled DAMN has now finally been released. But is it worth the hype? Does Kung Fu Kenny got the glow on this project? Let’s dive deep into this.

Release/Promotion

On March 27th, 2017, Kendrick had released the fourth installment of his “The Heart” series. Within the song, he gave a rather direct hint of when the album would be released stating the following lyrics:

You know what time it is, ante up, this is in forever
Y’all got ’til April the 7th to get y’all shit together

Following “The Heart Pt. 4,” he released the single to the album titled “Humble” first as a cinematic visual then as a song available on all music platforms. As April 7th approached, the date was pushed back to April 14th. Additionally on April 7th, the album was made for pre-order. The track-list for the album along with the cover art was released on April 11th.

Fun Fact: You would think that there would be a significant close friend/family member close to an artist who people are known to be recognized by the artists fans. Examples could be Will, the close friend of Wiz Khalifa, Doe Burger who is close to Ab-Soul or Schoolboy Q’s daughter, Joy Hanley or his friend Smacc. In Kendrick’s case, this would be his younger sister Kayla Duckworth.

Although not as present in a lot of visual social media platforms such as Snapchat or Instagram, Kayla instead has a Twitter where she posts snapshots and pictures of her interactions with her older brother Kendrick. You can follow her @Silnovia .

Production

The following artists contributed to production on the album:

-Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith (Executive)
-Dr. Dre (Executive)
-The Alchemist
-9th Wonder (The first record he produced this year is on this album)
-Bekon
-BadBadNotGood
-Cardo
-Dj Dahi
-Greg Kurstin
-James Blake
-Mike Will Made It
-Ricci Riera
-Sounwave
-Steve Lacy
-Terrace Martin
-Tae Beast
-Teddy Lunch

Fun Fact: As you probably know, Kendrick is a very big fan of Fruity Pebbles and the TV sitcom Martin. Interestingly enough, Kendrick actually walked out of an interview with Carissa Rossi because she didn’t know who and what Martin was with a face full of surprise.


Artist Spotlight: 
Zacari

Get real familiar with this cat right here…seriously. Considered one of few TDE “John Doe’s” (the term given to TDE members who are either unknowingly signed to TDE but not revealed to the public and/or collaborate with TDE members numerously) like Kembe X and previously SiR, this young man has contributed immensely to the label. Three TDE tracks he’s already been featured on: Isaiah Rashad’s “Wat’s Wrong” ft. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul’s “RAW (Backwards)” and now, Kendrick Lamar’s “LOVE.” If you want an idea on how he sounds, he’s sounds melodically like The Dream (and most of us really like the sound The Dream provided to us).

If you liked some tracks I’ve listed above or you’re interested in his artistry, take a look at this playlist below. Be on the lookout for this young man in the future. TDE is definitely building in a very creative direction.

Honorable Mentions:

Rihanna: You know that line Kendrick said on the Black Hippy Remix of Ab-Soul’s “Black Lip Bastard?” Yeah…Rihanna must’ve heard it.

Dj Kid Capri: When the last time you heard a DJ bark on somebody’s album and it was great? Not a mixtape…an ALBUM? Not to mention him ad-libbing “NEW KUNG FU KENNY” periodically and scratching on tracks like “XXX,” made the album much more enjoyable to listen. Not to mention he stated there will be more Kung Fu Kenny on the way.

Fun Fact: As some may know, Kendrick is an avid Lil Wayne fan. Not only did Weezy co-sign Kendrick’s C4 mixtape in person but Kendrick also did a honorable video dedicated to Lil Wayne’s group, The Hot Boyz. In 2013, Kendrick got stuck at an airport in Paris. With the help of some TDE members, they collectively shot their version of The Hot Boys “I Need A Hot Girl” to pass time.

Strengths & Weaknesses

1. The Presence of TDE

Strength: You have Top Dawg, Punch, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, Isaiah Rashad, SZA, Lance Skiiiwalker, SiR, Zacari, & Kembe X. You have Black Hippy which remains one of the few groups that Rap & Hip Hop is desiring a project from. Within that group, (Rock, Soul, Q & K. Dot) are 4 artists that each are representing the brand to the fullest. Lets not forget the chemistry that Zaywop and SZA can produce when they come together to make songs.

Weakness: Everything that I said above is all a problem. We couldn’t get a collective TDE song? What’s good with Black Hippy? Nearly every album that’s put out by each individual member of Black Hippy, one song is at least remixed from the respected member’s album or one song is promoted for the respected member’s upcoming album (“That Part,” “Black Lip Bastard,” UOENO,” “Swimming Pools,” “Vice City,” “Say Wassup,”). For if any member begins to outshine the other (which you could guess who it could be currently), the thought of ANYTHING relative to something collaborative such as a TDE project or Black Hippy project would be eclipsed by the member currently gathering all the buzz. This ultimately diminishes TDE longevity for each respective member within the brand.

And by the way, we still don’t have SZA’s album yet…

2. Kendrick The Hypocrit?

Strength: I admire K. Dot’s push for unity and love when it comes to the world. I also admire the idea that he’s the guy right now that’s making buzz within the news regarding anything political, his stance on politics and police brutality. Tracks like “DNA,” are hyper contributive to this statement and even within his past, you can tell Kendrick is really trying to bring peace within the world far as racism is considered. Even within his past such as his performance at The Grammy’s or the BET Awards, the media made it seem as though he was the villain but in reality you can see that Kendrick capitalizes positively on these misinterpretations in his artistry (hence again, “DNA” with the excerpt from Fox News).

Weakness: But this whole Pro-Black Militance seems like a cover-up. Now let me ask you: how could someone such as Kendrick rap of peace and unity within America (which in this day and age is a very good thing)…but in the same breath be a Blood-affiliated (or by association) member and speak of killing in his raps? I know what you’re thinking: “Don’t all rappers allude to the act of killing on a metaphorical level?” Maybe you’re thinking, “he’s just “metaphorically” saying he’ll kill but he isn’t a gangbanger.” It’s not always the case. In a video with Noisey, it was stated that Kendrick had grew up in Blood territory.

Now I’m not suggesting that he *IS* a blood. But this supports my original point: the Pro-Black Militance seems like a cover-up. That’s not all: his lyrics are rather suggestive to this as well.

If I told you I killed a nigga at sixteen Would you believe me? Or see me to be Innocent Kendrick you seen in the street With a basketball

or…

So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street when gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me? Hypocrite!

Now of course, a handful of his lyrics are told based on narrative or perspective but too many of these perspectives allude to being personal (numerous narratives possibly being Kendrick himself). This definitely could be discussed and dissected further in the future.

K. Dot’s Killer Instinct

Strengths: The man is capable of killing an artist by any means. “Rigamortis” and “The Heart Pt.2” was just the start of what I saw K. Dot was capable of in terms of channeling conviction in his raps. But then that “Control” verse dropped and it changed everything. Afterwards, that TDE BET Cypher dropped and that is when the possibility of Kendrick truly being a killer in Hip-Hop was transparent. But this was out of the spirit of competition. If you wanna be the best, you have to claim that you are the best. Never did this man complain about jabs or subliminal disses. Instead, he just gets in the booth and gets the job done.

Weakness: Now I feel as though Kendrick totally went from 6th to 1st gear on this album far as this “killer instinct” goes. Tracks such as “HUMBLE,” & “ELEMENT,” are a prime example of why I think so too. If I could literally ask Kendrick a question, I’d ask this: “Why’d you let off the gas on this album? I thought somebody was gonna die?” I mean, he wasn’t afraid to name drop and say directly that he wanted to “murder” his peers on “Control.” Additionally, you’re having back and forth exchanges with Sean & Drake subliminally as well. Why ease off the gas when you could literally just perform the execution and stop the constant theory of what we think you’re talking about? Is he entertaining this for the suspense? Is it trolling? I was looking for the KO. But maybe in the near future, K. Dot will release something aimed specifically at either of the two listed above.

Final Verdict:

Kendrick is known to have a theme in a handful of projects. In Section 80, Kendrick speaks on the theme of Section 80 babies within America. In GKMC, he speaks on the narrative of youthful black male in Compton. In TPAB,  Kendrick speaks on the narrative of a black male in America being institutionalized. In the opening track titled “BLOOD,” Bekon says this:

Is it wickedness?
Is it weakness?
You decide
Are we gonna live or die?

The theme in this album seems to be Kendrick’s dichotomy or a division between two totally different things. The two items within his dichotomy is wickedness and weakness. In the beginning, the perspective is told from “BLOOD” to “DUCKWORTH.” Tracks played in this order tell in which Kendrick’s narrative begin as a wicked person (tracks like “DNA,”&  “ELEMENT”)  until his weakness (tracks such as “LOVE,” “GOD,” “FEAR,”) kicks in to indicate his weakness as an individual. Then at the very end on “DUCKWORTH,” a gunshot is heard which then plays the album backwards.

STOP. Now play the album backwards from “DUCKWORTH” to “BLOOD.” It’s then played in a way that Kendrick’s weakness leads to his wickedness. Had of Kendrick lost his father to Top Dawg, this expresses the idea of Kendrick spiraling into his wickedness which then in turn leads to his death. However you play it, the album is delivered in the same manner because:

A. The ending result is one or the other and delivered in the same context of a twist of fate.

B. The turning point for which the narrative does a turn around is at “HUMBLE.” Definitively, he makes the realization of pursuing the other route after this point from either perspective of how you listen to it.

An album such as this hasn’t exactly done this to me before (I mean I’m still rather crazed about the whole NATION theory). With this said, Kung Fu Kenny definitely has the glow on this album.

Renegade Score: 4.9/5

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