By Nia Todd
Published: April 26th, 2017
King Kendrick has done it again. The rapper finally released his third album “DAMN.” last week after causing speculation with lead single “HUMBLE.” back in the beginning of April.
With “To Pimp A Butterfly” channeling themes of black empowerment, “DAMN.” serves more as a mirror for Kendrick, as he navigates through life’s new challenges, while reflecting on his past.
Kendrick’s best asset has always been his ability to tell a story. He knows how to keep listeners paying attention from beginning to end. In an interview with Zane Lowe from Beats 1 Radio, he revealed that this is done intentionally. On his thought process while creating the album, Kendrick said, “I like to put a lot of different things, wordplay, and messages in my music because I want it to live further than two weeks, further than the attention span of how we all was as kids. We take it, we listen to it, and we move on. But I want it to live for the next 20 years. You have to listen to it over and over and over again to fully understand the direction and message I put in there, the execution of it. I want you to do that. I want to challenge the way you think and the way you take in music.”
And within the fourteen tracks of “DAMN.” Kendrick does just that.
The album starts off with “BLOOD.” which serves as a caution of sorts. “Is it wickedness or is it weakness,” singer Beckon chants before Kendrick’s opening lines of the story. Beckon serves as the chorus for the Greek mythology that is “DAMN.” His voice floats over the entirety of the album, whether it’s an intro or outro of a song. His warnings highlight both the regression and evolution of Kendrick’s character.
Soon after, the album launches into “DNA.” another single that exposes every harsh critique he has had of himself without a second thought. That kind of honesty is duplicated in other tracks like “XXX.” and “FEAR.” On the former, he addresses the evilness that can be unlocked in anyone, and on the latter, he confronts things that have had the potential to make him afraid. Where “Butterfly’s” was easy going on the ears with uplifting messages, “DAMN.” is its angry younger brother. “HUMBLE.” and “ELEMENT.” has Kendrick where fans love him best: rapping at the speed of light while assassinating his competition with not so subtle jabs at their egos.
In between morally accessing his life and critiquing his blackness like on “YAH.” Kendrick finds time to just be. This is most evident on the Rihanna featured “LOYALTY.” which has the ‘bad gal’ rapping over the elegantly flipped “24k Magic” Bruno Mars sample. The two trade bars in a seductive back-and-forth manner where they question the other’s motive. It’s also displayed on the song “LOVE.” that features Zacari, an upcoming singer from Los Angeles. This track has Kendrick relying on a melodic delivery that fits in with today’s current trend, while differing at the same time. The production provided by TDE’s in-house creative mind Sounwave, allows for Kendrick to express that he needs love and isn’t ashamed to ask for it. Towards the end of the album, we see his growth as a person. The survivor’s guilt that was on “Butterfly’s” can’t be found on “GOD.” as Kendrick literally laughs to the bank.
Yes, fame brings its own onslaught of problems, but he didn’t succumb to the problems of his past, and that is worthy of praise.
All in all, Kendrick has provided fans with yet another body of work to be revered. “DAMN.” isn’t a story untold, but perhaps one told too often. Kendrick shows the frustration behind that notion while still being able to appreciate his own individual journey in life. So grab your keys (or MetroCard) and ride out to the King’s latest decree.