By Davis McCondichie, E23 Technical Producer
“DAMN.”, Kendrick Lamar’s new album, cements his legacy as a master of all things hip-hop.
Lamar has stunned his fans yet again by producing another excellent album, and it is a welcome change of pace in the hip-hop scene.
Lamar’s streak of near perfect music seems so uncommon in the modern scene. As Kayne West did not deliver the complete masterpiece fans desired in “Life of Pablo”, and Drake overwhelmingly disappointed with “Views”, there is still Kendrick Lamar.
As Childish Gambino tried to change modern hip-hop with a more “funkadelic” sound, and Migos has brought “mumble rap” to the forefront of the genre, Kendrick Lamar is the concrete reminder that some rappers do not need to change to be excellent.
Lamar proves that some artists do not let the pressure of fans make them rush and release half-finished albums.
Most of all, fans just missed Kendrick Lamar, and “DAMN.” does not disappoint.
On this record, Lamar shows a vibrant talent to create a cohesive theme, and then weaves it through the songs, each with a unique story and style.
Each song is unique to itself, but they belong together, as the songs give one other new found meaning. The whole album is about duality. Kendrick explores the balance of life and his own constant struggle to maintain it.
This is apparent in the back-to-back songs, “PRIDE” and “HUMBLE”.
“PRIDE” is the slow, subtle song that analyzes where pride can become a short fall in humanity. The song is a warning to stay humble, and the melodies themselves are humble. The mix is subtle and Lamar’s voice never overplays.
His lyrics are powerful. Some of his lines say: “I know the walls, they can listen, I wish they could talk back/The hurt becomes repetition, the love almost lost that/Sick venom in men and women overcome with pride/A perfect world is never perfect, only filled with lies/Promises are broken and more resentment come alive”, Lamar raps.
It is a powerful reminder that we do not live in a perfect world and that pride can even slow down Kendrick Lamar.
On the other end is the loud, fun and overwhelming “HUMBLE”. This song greatly juxtaposes its predecessor. The mix is jacked up and powerful. The song is a true banger and features Lamar putting someone down by rapping his accomplishments. It is a paradox of duality.
In the first song, he is telling you to stop pride from taking over your life, and in the second song, he is speaking with pride about the things he has done. This is where the balance lies.
Just compare the lyrics in “HUMBLE” to the earlier ones: “If I quit this season I still be the greatest, funk/My left stroke just went viral/Right stroke put lil baby in a spiral/Soprano c, we like to keep it on a high note”.
These two songs are only a glimpse of the themes and messages Kendrick Lamar melds in this album.
Overall, “DAMN.” will likely be considered one of the best releases of the year.
Lamar paints a portrait of a man torn between all these conflicting expectations. He is no longer unsure of himself, as in “To Pimp a Butterfly”. Instead, he is unsure of whether he should be this confident.
The album looks deep into his life and questions whether faith/fear, pride/humbleness, or lust/love got him to this point. Kendrick asks which of these he should embrace.
Most of all, he analyzes the media’s perception of him through these subjects. In this way, “DAMN.” is a meaningful examination of the expectations for a rapper, and what it takes to be Kendrick Lamar.
The hip-hop world needed this album, and fans of the genre need to make sure they hear it.