AMANDA LUNDERGAN ’17
Once again, Kendrick Lamar is the god of rap. If you think that sounds blasphemous, wait until you get a glimpse of Kendrick’s music video for “HUMBLE.,” where Lamar and his buddies are gathered around the table at the Last Supper. Lamar’s new album, released on Apr. 14, has received a massive amount of attention, most of which is good, seeing as the new album “DAMN.” sold over 353,000 copies in its debut week and accumulated over 340 million streams.
With the release of this new project, Lamar has officially surpassed Drake as the artist of the moment. The two have have rivaled each other for years, beating the previous record of 2017 with Drake’s “More Life,” Lamar hit the number one spot on Billboard 200 chart in its first week. This makes Lamar’s third number one album, after 2016’s “Untitled Unmastered” and 2015’s “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
You may know Lamar from his popular singles, “Swimming Pools (Drank),” “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” and “Poetic Justice,” but now you can get to know him for something deeper and much less refined than his earlier work.
The album is raw and real. It involves some of Lamar’s personal touches, along with surprise appearances by U2 and Rihanna.
Metacritic has named “DAMN.” the number-one best album of 2017, number one most discussed album of 2017, and the number one most shared album of 2017 thus far.
The 14-track album is versatile and full of variation; from a religious and thrumming “GOD.,” to a tender and romantic “LOVE,” to a familial, motivated “ELEMENT.” A strongly-opinionated intro “BLOOD.,” to a flag-waving American ode “XXX.” A controversial “DNA.” and “YAH.” to a woefully mundane “LUST.”
“PRIDE.” is a slow, laid back jam chock-full of words of wisdom. “LOYALTY.” is pretty straight-forward. Featuring Rihanna, this one traces relationships and faithfulness.
“FEEL.” is a deep dive into Lamar’s emotional state.
“FEAR.” explores struggles Kendrick Lamar has faced in life. “GOD.” comes right after and outlines his proud moments in life, while allowing itself to be not so humble.
Track number 9 on the album makes use of a beat conceived by artist Mike Will Made It, and a playful little piano riff. This one is a chant and a banger, the kind of song that fills the listener with energy and makes sleep impossible.
“HUMBLE.” refers to Lamar’s humble start in life, but the music itself explores egotism and self-centered power.
“I’m so f***in sick and tired of the Photoshop / Show me something’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor / Show me somethin’ natural like a** with some stretch marks.” These lines are a plea for cultural realism in a millennial-occupied 2017, with social issues such as digital retouching becoming more prominent. In just a few words, Lamar brutally and gracefully takes a dig at society and asks for authenticity. Lamar’s “DNA.” Is one of the most politically charged songs on the album. It tackles problems of race, socio-economic differences and other public issues. The album also moves into satire, with a clip from Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera saying that “hip hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”
Right from the start, Lamar determines his identity: “Loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA / Cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace inside my DNA / I got power, poison pain and joy inside my DNA / I got hustle though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA / I was born like this, since one like this.” With this, Lamar addresses preconceived notions about race and his own real identity. DAMN. paints a picture of Lamar’s battles alongside his achievements and most genuine goals in life.
The album ends with a jazzy rap “DUCKWORTH.” This one embraces Lamar’s family and outlines near-death experiences of his father who shares his last name—Duckworth. It is a story that Lamar had apparently been waiting until the right time to tell. In the words of Lamar himself, “life is some funny motherf***er.”
His success keeps growing- the rapper just finished up performances at Coachella, and announced Monday that the DAMN. tour will take place this summer in North America.
The entire album is available on Spotify.