With ‘Damn.’ Kenderick Lamar remains at the top of his game

Kendrick Lamar brings things full circle with his thought-provoking DAMN.

Chris Prenatt, Contributing Writer

Kendrick Lamar gave everyone the album they’ve been waiting for last Friday, April 14.

The album has been anxiously and hotly anticipated since Lamar surprisingly dropped the first single, “HUMBLE,” March 30 to rave reviews.

With the album finally out, there really is not much to say about it other than: hot DAMN.!
On DAMN., Kendrick Lamar’s fourth album, the Compton rapper expands his horizons and shows how much he has grown since his award winning 2015 release, To Pimp a Butterfly. Lamar channels his inner anger and expels it with joy on each of the album’s fourteen tracks. On these tracks, Lamar tells a story that balances between life and death. With the country divided due to issues concerning Trump’s presidency, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, Lamar’s voice serves as a beacon of light in these dark times.
DAMN. begins with the short story “BLOOD.,” which talks about Lamar trying to help out a blind lady (presumably Lady Liberty) who then shoots him. The track ends with a sample of Fox News anchors Eric Bolling and Kimberly Guilfoyle criticizing his performance of “Alright” at the 15th BET Awards, saying “Lamar stated his views on police brutality with that line in the song quote: ‘And we hate the popo, wanna kill us in the steet fo’ sho’…’”

This isn’t the last time Lamar fires shots at Fox News as he spends a majority of the second verse of “YAH.” calling them out, “Interviews wanna know my thoughts and opinions / Fox News wanna use my name for percentage.”
It’s obvious to hear the political outcry and religious references through out the album.  One song in particular, “DNA.,” is clearly about Lamar celebrating his black heritage and culture and calling out those who oppress it and/or profit off it. “XXX.” has Lamar calling out Trump, saying, “Donald Trump’s in office/ We lost Barack and promised to never doubt him again / But is America honest, or do we bask in sin?” “HUMBLE.” could be a loose reference to the verse James 4:7 “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The video for the track had various religious imagery scattered throughout, Lamar dressed in priest’s robes, and a re-enactment of Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper.

DAMN. also features some amazing performances from other artists such as U2’s Bono chiming in on “XXX.” singing about the importance of music in the world. Rihanna appears on “LOYALTY.” in which the duo calls out fellow rappers Drake (who Rihanna has worked with in the past) and Big Sean.
With an entire album filled with some DAMN. good songs, the standout has to be the final track “DUCKWORTH.”

Named after Lamar’s actual last name (his real name is Kendrick Lamar Duckworth) and sampling Hiatus Kaiyote’s “Atari” and Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Be Ever Wonderful,” the song tells a street tale of how Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith nearly killed Lamar’s dad, Ducky, when the two worked at KFC years before Tiffith would sign Lamar to his label, Top Dawg Entertainment. It’s not until the end of the song that Lamar tells the listener of the actual importance of fate and how it almost intervened with his life in light of this near incident, “Then you start remindin’ them about that chicken incident / Whoever thought the greatest rapper would be from coincidence? / Because if Anthony killed Ducky / Top Dawg could be servin’ life / While I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight.”

The track then ends before Lamar can say “gunfight” as he is then shot. The entire album then reverses itself until the intro to “BLOOD.” starts up again, completing the story’s circle.
Throughout the album’s nearly hour long running time, Lamar tells a whimsical story, blending in real life scenarios with his opinions on himself, religion and politics. DAMN. is a journey from beginning to end. May this writer be damned if this album isn’t on anyone’s Album of the Year list.