Kendrick Lamar
DAMN.


2.5
average

Review

by Andrew Ricci USER (1 Reviews)
April 20th, 2017 | 64 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In an attempt to stunt on other rappers, Kendrick stoops to their level.

When I first heard Humble, the first single from DAMN, I was puzzled. There was a noticeable shift from the intricate instrumentals and song structures of To Pimp A Butterfly; Kendrick here opting for a straightforward, no frills banger courtesy of Mike Will Made It. This wasn’t the first time a Kendrick single had seemed strange outside of the context of an album, as Backseat Freestyle benefited heavily from its placement within Good Kid, m.A.A.d City. I figured that within the proper context, the song would be more effective or meaningful. Boy, was I wrong.

Placed within DAMN, Humble is no less baffling. Its brags are tiresome and weak, contributing little to the listening experience. DAMN is littered with half baked and underdeveloped lyrics, elsewhere notably on Element and Loyalty, respectively:
If I gotta slap a pussy-ass nigga, I'ma make it look sexy
If I gotta go hard on a bitch, I'ma make it look sexy
I pull up, hop out, air out, made it look sexy
They won't take me out my element

You can tell your nigga he can meet me outside (yeah)
You can babysit him when I leave him outside
Many have defended this type of lyricism as Kendrick showing off to rappers like Drake and Big Sean that he too can make the type of “hits” that they do, but all it really does is highlight just how awful this approach to writing is. And brags have never been a strength of Kendrick’s either. This technique only works when a rapper is willing to go to absolutely absurd levels, i.e. Facts by Kanye West, and Kendrick safely sticks to middle of the road insults that illicit little more than an eye roll.

Middle of the road also perfectly describes the instrumentals throughout a great deal of the album. Gone are the collaborations with Flying Lotus, Pharrell Williams, and Thundercat, this album is dominated by the mundane production of Mike Will Made It. With a few notable exceptions, such as Pride and Feel, the album is generally comprised of flat, surface level beats that don’t have a tenth the replay value of those found on Kendrick’s previous efforts. All this has been defended with the notion that Kendrick is “streamlining” his sound, but what’s positive about that? The most terrific music he’s made up to this point has been dense and strange, and changing this approach simply results in the kind of music that dozens of other less creative rappers have been making for years.

In a song like DNA, the generally vanilla beat is uplifted by the sheer amount of energy that Kendrick brings to his delivery, as well as the concepts that form the foundation of the lyrics and some of the samples throughout. If this level of energy were more present in other parts of DAMN, it might be stronger overall, but so much of this album is plagued with completely lazy delivery and sleepy beats that don’t keep the listener’s attention like To Pimp a Butterfly or Good Kid m.A.A.d City do. Songs like Love and Pride, while containing pretty instrumentals, are just completely absent of energy, which makes the middle of this album especially sluggish. There are also some particularly questionable features present as well, most notably Rihanna’s abysmal performance on the already weak track Loyalty.

What makes the entire package so frustrating is a clear lack of a singular driving idea to hold everything together. This doesn’t mean that this needs to be concept album, it means that it needs to have a certain level of consistency to be truly strong. With all the structural issues of DAMN, it just can’t be saved by a few strong tracks. By the time Fear comes in, one of the strongest tracks on the album, the listener has already been sufficiently frustrated by weak beats and a bevy of low energy tracks. Kendrick Lamar went into this project with middle level expectations, and came out with a result that simply doesn’t stand up to his previous two albums. Without playing to his strengths, his creativity and ability to craft an album around a single concept, DAMN fails to rise above the contemporaries Kendrick previously was light years ahead of.


user ratings (1178)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Rowan5215 STAFF (4.1)
don't ask for your favourite rapper, he dead...

herman (4.5)
DAMN. sees Kendrick coming to terms with everything that's happening and has happened....


Comments:Add a Comment 
VengeanceCactus
April 19th 2017


10 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Wow, first review! I've been reading this website forever so it seemed inevitable that I would have to write one. There seem to be a lot of people not entirely satisfied with this album, myself included, so I figured I would add another voice to the dissenters. Feedback appreciated!

TheMrAlexK
April 19th 2017


7990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"this album is dominated by the mundane production of Mike Will Made It."



He has production on only three of the fourteen tracks.



"but so much of this album is plagued with completely lazy delivery and sleepy beats that don’t keep the listener’s attention like To Pimp a Butterfly or Good Kid MAAD City do."



He's not exactly doing anything with his delivery on this album that he hadn't already done on gkmc or tpab fr.



It's a good review though even though I strongly disagree with the bulk of it. Also this review reads a lot more like a 2 than a 3 tbh





Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
April 19th 2017


55041 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

Don't even @ me if you have this lower than a 4

Digging: Uchu Conbini - Feel the Dying Note

VengeanceCactus
April 19th 2017


10 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

He has production on only three of the fourteen tracks.


Right, but I think it sets a tone for a lot of the album. Especially considering he produced on two of the biggest singles for it.



He's not exactly doing anything with his delivery on this album that he hadn't already done on gkmc or tpab fr.


Certainly, but application is really important. I think track by track, the deliveries didn't fit the music nearly as well here. Just my opinion, of course.



Also this review reads a lot more like a 2 tbh


Yeah, I definitely don't think it's that bad, but I wanted to get all my criticisms out there without making the review insanely long.

CompostCompote
April 19th 2017


541 Comments


Everyone is going for that whole 'Ironically shit album' thing, are they? Nice

rufinthefury
April 19th 2017


2941 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Many have defended this type of lyricism as Kendrick showing off to rappers like Drake and Big Sean that he too can make the type of “hits” that they do, but all it really does is highlight just how awful this approach to writing is."

did you completely miss the context where all the emotions are placed next to their opposite? it's all about the dynamic of being Kendrick Lamar, a guy with a savior complex who is still a normal guy with normal desires at the end of the day. it's a part of the whole album's story.

Digging: Terribly Happy - Wanchu!

guitarded_chuck
April 19th 2017


13209 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nice rating trebby

Wildcardbitchesss
April 19th 2017


119 Comments


Aye where do I start with this guy? I know the singles

TheMrAlexK
April 19th 2017


7990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Section 80.

JeetJeet
April 19th 2017


4171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yup start with Section 80. Its his best one.

Digging: Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

Maniac!
April 19th 2017


27972 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Pos

literallyzach
April 19th 2017


357 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

glad this review is out there. power 2 u br0

Digging: Keyakizaka46 - Masshirona Mono wa Yogoshitaku Naru

hasan
April 19th 2017


639 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

not every body is going to like the score on the cd LOL

Funeralopolis
April 19th 2017


14044 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

album is shit yea

Digging: Madonna - Music

Asdfp277
April 20th 2017


14303 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

ye

pjorn
April 20th 2017


3150 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

ye [2]

Digging: American Hate - I?d Rather Repeat Every Mistake

neekafat
April 20th 2017


2787 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good summary bro

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
April 20th 2017


15292 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is well written but i disagree with the crux of your argument. ruf put it nicely

Digging: Pretend - Circular Rsoning

AsleepInTheBack
April 20th 2017


3954 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

^[2]. There are lots of subtleties going on, lyrically and instrumentally, that I feel you sweep under the rug unjustly, and so I feel your thesis looks at the album in a very surface level way; but if that's how you feel then fair play, it certainly is a understandable and legitimate interpretation. Also it's very well written

dihstyle69
April 20th 2017


10 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

not sure how this review is getting a pass. it has some ridiculously inaccurate arguments that suggest that the listener only gave the album between one-three spins. you're entitled to your opinion but, express it in a good way.



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