By Jose Carrasquillo
Compton native Kendrick Lamar’s fourth studio album “DAMN.” dropped on Friday, April 14. In it, he ties together ideas from each of his previous albums.
“NEW KUNG-FU KENNY! NEW KUNG-FU KENNY!” echoes to open “ELEMENT.,” which Lamar raps over, flaunting how he will never let any of his enemies knock him out of his “element.” Lamar doesn’t fail to deliver after releasing the single “The Heart Part 4,” which foreshadowed “DAMN.” and all the cryptic tweets leading up to it.
“Is it wickedness? Is it weakness? You decide. Are we gonna live or die?” Lamar sings, over beautifully meshed synths to deliver a soulful sound with a powerful message to open the album.
Lamar introduced the two central themes that will battle throughout the album in his very first words. For every song that represents wickedness, there is one to represent his weakness to balance out the wickedness of the sin.
Lamar’s inner turmoil comes alive in each song when he must decide to give into for his weakness like in “LUST.” or fight it and be cocky, feeling himself on songs like “HUMBLE.” or “ELEMENT.”
Lamar is well-known for his hidden messages on his songs like, “Control,” sending diss shots to other rappers to establish that he’s the greatest. On “FEAR.,” midway through the song, Lamar features a 20-second spoken word verse that is echoed in the beginning of the album. The last song, “DUCKWORTH.” ends with a reversed clip of “DAMN’s” final line.
“DAMN.” allows Lamar to tap into local California artists to help produce his album, such as The Alchemist, Ricci Riera, Anna Wise, BadBadNotGood and 9th Wonder. Incorporating these different sounds that have shaped the California music scene allows Lamar to still deliver a different sound from his previous album “To Pimp a Butterfly,” but is still a nod to his hometown.
“DAMN.” is the opposite from his previous album, which focused on promoting the black artist, like Langston Hughes once did. His new project is more focused on preventing the internal vices from taking over.
“DAMN.” is – in the simplest form – Lamar rapping about his complexities, contradictions and beliefs, which reveal his true self as an artist. “To Pimp a Butterfly” was focused on how there needs to be a promotion of black artists and how to overcome and transcend the negativity of fame and fortune. “good kid M.A.A.D city” presented Lamar in his most vulnerable state, revealing the growing pains he had while being raised in Compton.
Lamar delivers not only a sonically appealing album, but also a commercially and artistically appealing one. “DAMN.” is projected to garner 200 million streams, with 120 million from Apple Music and Spotify alone, according to HITS Daily Double.