By Braxton Randolph
Kendrick Lamar is the best lyricist in hip-hop right now and one of the best of this generation. He has been embraced as one of the industry’s elite for such reasons, and his album sales numbers back it up. His wordplay has this effect on people where everyone turns into a contributor on Rap Genius just a few minutes into listening to any song. In other words, even his simplest lyrics get the in-depth analysis from hip-hop nerds and junkies.
Coming off his March 2015 release of the controversial To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar, currently known as “Kung-Fu Kenny,” is back with that same lyrical execution we’ve come to expect and much of the in-depth symbolism that comes with it. DAMN., which was released April 14th, 2017, was described by Kendrick’s mother via an Instagram post (a screenshot of a conversation between the two) as “the best one.” I’m going to have to agree with her that this is his best album yet. Let me begin by saying I’ve never been a huge Kendrick Lamar fan in the slightest. I thought To Pimp a Butterfly conveyed a strong message in the end, but ultimately, I was only able to enjoy a song or two because so few tracks really resonated with me. I previously believed Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was his best project because, in my opinion, there were more carefree tunes that you could play during a party, and “aux-eligible” tunes top all. Trust me when I say that if you put on To Pimp a Butterfly at a party, you will get booted off the aux cord.
DAMN. starts with a skit of Kendrick being shot by a blind woman whom he tried to help. There are many theories as to what this skit signifies, but the consensus seems to be that she represents damnation from the Book of Deuteronomy. As you can see, we are just 30 seconds into the album and people are already dissecting his every word before we have even reached an actual song. The proceeding track, titled “DNA,” is probably the most popular tune in rotation right now. For the music video, Kendrick taps Don Cheadle, the original King Fu Kenny (from Rush Hour 2), to co-star alongside him. If you haven’t seen this music video, I advise you go do so immediately.
In my opinion, the reason why this album is so good is because it bridges the gap between Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and To Pimp a Butterfly. As I touched on earlier, TPAB was like the rebel stepchild, an album that encompassed so much of the emotion of growing up black in America that you either loved the album or hated it. GKMC was the more laid-back sibling who was just trying to avoid becoming a product of his environment while still trying to remain cool with the people in that environment. In other words, DAMN. is like crushing up aspirin and putting it into pudding to get your dog to take his medicine. In other other words, this album is the perfect balance of serious contemplation and celebration.