Kendrick Lamar
DAMN.


4.1
excellent

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
April 14th, 2017 | 2713 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: don't ask for your favourite rapper, he dead

The first apparent thing about DAMN. is, unlike this review, it's lean and mean. That's compared to To Pimp a Butterfly's interminable runtime, anyway – for reference, at 55 minutes this is the shortest Kendrick album, but it's still a fair bit longer than classics like The Low End Theory and Illmatic. More accurate to say that, in an era where hip-hop feels defined by absurdly long durations and scores of filler, songs on DAMN. arrive, say what needs be said, and rarely ever let the beat ride out. The pre-release narrative that this would be an album of straight bangers, fueled by "HUMBLE." and the low-effort-low-reward album cover, is a little inaccurate. At least half of the album drips through the speakers like molasses, with "PRIDE." and "LUST." prioritising Kendrick's singing rather than rapping over near-glacial beats. This doesn't stop some bangers rearing their heads, which bar "DNA." are generally held down either by mediocre beats, truly awful choruses, or a deeply unnecessary Rihanna feature. Or in "LOYALTY."'s unfortunate case, all three.

This being a Kendrick album, we have to sift through some low-fat non-conceptual stuff first, and career lows "LOYALTY." and "HUMBLE." are two examples of filler in the first half. DAMN. does its best to incorporate the big single into the narrative, with "PRIDE." reaching for a lead-in with the I can't fake humble just 'cos your ass is insecure line, but the transition just doesn't work. It's post-"HUMBLE." that everything takes off, as if the snotty choruses and $2 keyboard beats have been exorcised, leaving room for the concept to fully kick in more than halfway through the album.

As the emotional and lyrical centrepiece, "FEAR." revives a "Sing About Me"-esque obsession with death, tied inextricably to imagery from Kendrick's childhood, even complete with reference to the Section.80 tragic figure Keisha. The lack of expected beat switch means the seven-plus-minute song does land on the sleepy side of hypnotic, but it's redeemed by a helping of Kendrick's finest lines to date (I'll prolly die 'cos that's what you do when you're seventeen). As the requisite epic, "FEAR." tackles the hefty philosophical questions for the second half of the album, leaving the other songs room to stretch into their own musical territories – "XXX."'s furious attack on American politics while an eerie Bono harmonises, "LOVE."'s shameless boy band summer vibe, the blatant and brilliant Kid Cudi-aping "GOD.". Closer "DUCKWORTH." recounts a coincidence where Kendrick's father could have been killed by label CEO Anthony 'Top Dawg' Tiffith, clearly made out as a father figure to Kendrick on "untitled 02". This track imagines the very possible scenario where, as teenagers, one of Kendrick's father figures shoots the other, and so our storyteller grows up without a dad and gets killed before he can ever shed the name of Duckworth and become Kendrick Lamar. It's a powerful exercise in hypotheticals about all the little events that need to line up just for one life to carry on, and it's hard to imagine a bleaker ending than the album's final lines being cut off by a gunshot, symbolising both literal and metaphorical forms of death.

DAMN. is not To Pimp a Butterfly, and admittedly the first day of release hasn't been nearly as fun without the manic experience of Kendrick fans throwing "greatest of all time" hyperbole left and right. But DAMN. remedies a lot of its predecessor's mistakes and gives us something better – a Kendrick not seen since Section.80, throwing tonally and stylistically inconsistent songs together in a desperate scramble to tell us just what the fuck he's feeling. It's slipshod, haphazard and rocky to listen to, and that's the Kendrick I've been missing for the past few years. DAMN. ends with the scratchy noise of the album being reversed as we are taken back to the first spoken words of "BLOOD."; cliche, yeah, but effective. And much like good kid, m.A.A.d city left us with a young Kendrick eternally borrowing his mother's van for fifteen minutes, DAMN. leaves an older man forever poised on the edge of a sidewalk, about to talk to a blind woman who may or may not be God, Lady Liberty, or just a symbol for the insecurities he's about to explore. Put the needle down and let's see what happens next.



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user ratings (1372)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
VengeanceCactus (2.5)
In an attempt to stunt on other rappers, Kendrick stoops to their level....

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



Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 14th 2017


39515 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

and here we go



s/o to johnny and arcade for the edits and suggestions

Digging: Glassjaw - Material Control

Aberf
April 14th 2017


1616 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

nice

Digging: Life on Venus - Encounters

wwf
April 14th 2017


5703 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mind pos, love that summary



Loyalty is one of the best songs on the album tho

Digging: Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights

elliootsmeuth
April 14th 2017


3383 Comments


May listen eventually

Spacesh1p
April 14th 2017


7202 Comments


Gonna check it later, varied ratings are interesting.

Piglet
April 14th 2017


7462 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

that 18 year old kid outta compton that produced PRIDE from his iPhone or whatever the fuk is a godDAMN. wonderboy

brainmelter
April 14th 2017


4746 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

damn damn

Digging: Outre - Ghost Chants

FreddieDelaney31
April 14th 2017


3378 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

welp

love the reviewer, hate the review

idk I just disagree on a lot. i definitely agree the transition to Humble is just too jarring tho

Digging: Blood Cultures - Happy Birthday

Piglet
April 14th 2017


7462 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Also that deep vocal sample on Feel is straight from the bloody Organic Future Hip Hop Sample Pack from Loopmasters, my mate used it 4 months before this came out just by sheer coincidence; https://clyp.it/cgxkrq05



farkn lazy producerrrrsssss

not ta faurkin menchun the drums are a loop sample from SWUM Drum Kit yuers

Judio!
April 14th 2017


8404 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Idk how I feel about this album yet. Definitely not blown away

adr
April 14th 2017


11875 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

it's a grower, it started as a 3 for me, now i'm feeling like giving it a 4

moose87mf
April 14th 2017


4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Loyalty is not a terrible song. Rihanna is surprisingly fitting for the feat. too

Sinternet
April 14th 2017


15088 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

man that sounds like a disappointing boner

Digging: Charli XCX - Pop2

50iL
April 14th 2017


4447 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I actually thought the Rihanna feat. was excellent and loyalty is, in my opinion, one of the best on here

Digging: Dred Scott - Breakin Combs

evilford
April 14th 2017


40681 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice rev might check as I'm gonna try getting back into hip hop

guitarded_chuck
April 14th 2017


13930 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

greatest of all time

Pasts
April 14th 2017


118 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

damn

guitarded_chuck
April 14th 2017


13930 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hehe



not really but forreal the kendrick fans i know and the sentiment im getting from the internet hip hop community is this is his quite possibly his best



really kind of comes down to taste given how different it is from tpab. if you prefer the jazz sound or the concept album style. or the political commentary more in hip hop you'll probably prefer tpab. if you were really into the og raw black hippy sound as i am you'll probably prefer this

Sinternet
April 14th 2017


15088 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

'not really but forreal the kendrick fans i know and the sentiment im getting from the internet hip hop community is this is his quite possibly his best'



cant tell if youre being ironic or retarded but based on form im going for the latter

dreamgauze
April 14th 2017


910 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

better than gkmc probably

on par with tpab for me



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