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DAMN.

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DAMN.

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It has been over two years since Kendrick Lamar released To Pimp A Butterfly. The album, eclectic, masterful, and wildly successful, ushered in a new era of experimental rap-jazz that, at first listen, seems to continue in DAMN.. But Kendrick’s new album, released on April 14th, is notably more mature than Butterfly. The songs are more expansive and thematic, but don’t lose his signature shifts in mood, tone, and gravity. His sharp political commentary is present as always. Ben Zaidel ’20 believes the album is “literally superb,” as “it uses music to address real world issues and problems that Kendrick has lived through. It covers everything.” DAMN. is the creation of a matured, talented, peak-performing rapper.

        The themes touched upon in DAMN. are more intense and refreshing than any of his previous works. The album opener, “BLOOD.,” is a lyrical piece that tells the story of a blind woman shooting Kendrick, a theme that is continued in the album’s closer “DUCKWORTH..” The next song “DNA.” is a fiery, evolving piece that destroys any doubts as to whether cultural appropriation is dangerous. It is Daisy Fey ‘18’s favorite on the album because “it is aggressive in the best possible way.” He raps, “You muthaf*ckas can’t tell me nothin / I’d rather die than listen to you / My DNA is not for imitation.” He struggles with his relationship to God on “YAH. (short for Yahweh)” and “PRIDE..” On “LUST.” he focuses on the monotonous cycles we humans tend to trap ourselves in, especially romantically and sexually. His themes are connected but wide-reaching, and he comments on modern society and race relations more adeptly than any other artist in the mainstream today.

        As for the music and raps themselves, Kendrick is at his best. Sunhoo Park ‘18’s favorite is “ELEMENT.,” as the lyrics are “savage” and “it has a nasty beat.” Kendrick gets help from the likes of U2 and Rihanna on the relationship piece “LOYALTY.” and on the synth-filled “XXX.,” respectively. The cameos, which also include newcomer Zacari, enhance Kendrick’s works in very different ways. Rihanna adds welcome harmonies, U2 brings a hazy guitar riff, and Zacari lends his youthful, golden voice to standout song “LOVE..” My personal favorite is “GOD.,” a drifting, dreamlike meditation on faith with a notably slower and calmer lyrical pace. The song is grand and orchestral as Kendrick begs God not to judge his actions that clash with his moral ideals. The album functions as a whole musically, as samples appear frequently on different tracks, and the signature elements of Kendrick’s expertise are evident on every single one.

        On the song “ELEMENT.,” Kendrick reaches for perfection. He establishes himself as a rapper above all others, more lyrical, honest, and committed than the rest. Kendrick states, “Because its all in your eyes, most of y’all tell lies / Most of y’all don’t fade, most of y’all been advised / Last LP I tried to lift black artists / But there’s a difference between black artists and wack artists.” There is a reason all of the songs are in caps: Kendrick is back, Kendrick is here, Kendrick is king.

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