Released: April 14, 2017
Label: TDE ・Aftermath ・Interscope
Genre: Conscious hip hop ・trap ・R&B ・pop
Producer: 9th Wonder ・The Alchemist ・BadBadNotGood ・Beckon ・Cardo ・DJ Dahi ・Greg Kurstin ・James Blake ・Mike Will Made It ・Ricci Riera ・Sounwave ・Steve Lacy ・Terrace Martin ・Teddy Walton ・Top Dawg
Kendrick Lamar has been one of the most amazing & consistent rapper for West Coast Hip-Hop for the past decade. His presence in Hip-Hop is undeniable, with his hits that range from Swimming Pools (Drank,) The Recipe, Poetic Justice, I, King Kunta, Alright to Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe. Selling over 70 million records during his career so far, Kendrick is definitely one of the best-selling rappers of all time.
Kendrick Lamar’s fourth studio album was titled DAMN. Released on Good Friday (April 14, 2017,) Damn is a dynamic masterpiece with a central theme of the duality of human nature. With elements of conscious rap, trap, R&B and pop, DAMN as a whole captures the essence and the complexities of modern Black life. DAMN has become one of my favorite Kendrick Lamar albums over the years, due to the articulation of the messages behind the songs.
Themes of police brutality, racial inequality, political outrage, trauma within the Black community, financial turmoil, gun violence, lust, love and loyalty, makes DAMN one of the most remarkable albums of the 2010s decade. Actually, the album became the first non-jazz or classical work to earn a Pulitzer Prize for Music, and won Best Rap Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards.
DAMN debuted at number one of the Billboard 200 & Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts respectively, selling 603,000 album-equivalent units in it’s first week of release, becoming his third consecutive album to reach the top spot. In the world of streaming, the album accumulated over 340 million streams. The album has been certified triple platinum by the RIAA, selling over 3 million album-equivalent units.
Ladies & Gentlemen, I present to you Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Daniel Tannenbaum ・Anthony Tiffith
Is it wickedness? Is it weakness? You decide.Kendrick Lamar, BLOOD. 2017
The album opens with BLOOD., which is a song where the rapper’s character in the song is shot by a blind woman he’s trying to help. The blind woman can be thought as representing the consequences of the damnation referenced in the Book of Deuteronomy. The outro of the song samples a clap of FOX News Reporters criticizing Kendrick for his Alright performance at the 2015 BET Awards. The song peaked in the top 40 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, at number thirty-one and was certified Gold by the RIAA.
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Michael Williams II
DNA is one of my favorite songs from the album
DNA is one of my favorite songs on the album! With elements of hardcore hip hop and trap, DNA showcases how COLD Kendrick’s flow is. Like top tier. The song peaked in the top 5 on both the pop & R&B/Hip Hop charts, peaking at number four and three respectively. The song has been certified triple platinum by the RIAA.
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Mark Spears ・Dacoury Natche ・Anthony Tiffith
YAH. is another favorite of mine. Referring to Yahweh, which is a romanization of the name of the Abrahamic God in the Hebrew Bible. The song was a top twenty hit, peaking at number eighteen on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts.
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Mark Spears ・James Blake ・Ricci Riera
ELEMENT. is one of Kendrick’s hardest songs and that’s no cap on that. Lyrically, the song has Kendrick asserting himself as the most dominant rapper in the hip hop game, daring his peers to call him out. The song was yet another hit for the rapper, peaking at number sixteen on the Billboard Hot 100..and number nine of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts respectively. The song has been certified platinum by the RIAA, and contains an interpolation of Ha by Juvenile.
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Mark Spears
FEEL.takes a deeper look into Kendrick’s feelings about everything, which says a lot because he’s usually a very private person. He states that he feels like no one is looking out for him, while feeling a strong desire to isolate himself from his loved ones.
Even though Kendrick has been one of the most commercially successful rapper in recent years, his continuous struggle to grapple with his emotional, interpersonal and spiritual problems is evident all over the song. The song contains a sample of O.C. Smith’s Stormy.
LOYALTY. (featuring Rihanna)
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Dacoury Natche ・Mark Spears ・Robyn Fenty ・Anthony Tiffith
LOYALTY. is one of the greatest collaborations I’ve ever heard in my life. Featuring the global icon Rihanna, LOYALTY is a song that has “Kung Fu Kenny & Bad Gal Riri to discuss the importance and value of honesty and loyalty in romantic and platonic relationships. Rihanna also speaks about the difficulties of remaining humble with all of the success that you have.
Released as the second single, the song was a chart-topping hit with the song peaking at number fourteen and seven on the pop and R&B charts respectively. The song contains a sample of Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic‘s title track, and contains interpolations with Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya & Jay-Z’s Get Your Mind Right Mami.
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Steve Lacy ・Anna Wise・Anthony Tiffith
PRIDE. is one of the most well produced songs out of Kendrick’s catalog to me. Kendrick collaborated with Steve Lacy (he’s one of my favorite producers/musicians today) and it is a true gem. Lyrically, the song is an introspective track that has the singer following up with the religious vibes the album was giving. The song was a top 40 hit on the pop and R&B charts, peaking at thirty-seven and twenty-two respectfully.
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Michael Williams II ・Asheton Hogan
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.James 4:7.
The lead single HUMBLE. really sent me in a frenzy when it dropped. From a lyrical perspective, the song is ironically a very boastful song from K. Dot. There is nothing “humble” about this song, but I love it! The song was Kendrick’s first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and won him three Grammy Awards for Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song & Best Music Video.
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Dacoury Natche ・Mark Spears ・Chester Hansen ・Alexander Sowinski ・Matthew Tavares ・Leland Whitty
The themes of sexual intimacy, routine and Kendrick’s reaction to the 2016 Presidential election makes LUST. a remarkable record. The song features guest vocals from the iconic producer Kaytranada. LUST. has been certified Gold by the RIAA, & peaked in the top 40 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts. The song contains a sample of Rat Boy’s Knock Knock.
LOVE. (featuring Zacari)
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Zacari Pacaldo ・Travis Walton ・Mark Spears ・Greg Kurstin ・Anthony Tiffith
LOVE. is a song that describes the rapper’s love and devotion to his fiancée and the future mother of his children, Whitney Alford. The song was released as the third single from the album, peaking in the top 10 on the R&B charts at number five and the pop charts at number eleven.
XXX. featuring U2
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Michael Williams II ・Dacoury Natche ・Anthony Tiffith ・Paul Hewson ・David Evans ・Adam Clayton ・Larry Mullen Jr.
The progressive rap influenced XXX. is lyrically about speaking truth to power. The song peaked in the top 20 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts.
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Daniel Maman
FEAR. is broken down into three parts, which vividly describes events in Kendrick’s life in regards to his worries and fears. Verse one explores the fear Kendrick experienced growing up with a strict mother. Verse two explores his teen years and the fear of dying at a young age with him growing up in Compton, CA. The final verse explores the anxieties he had during the making of his third studio album To Pimp a Butterfly. The song contains a sample of Poverty’s Paradise by 24-Carat Black, and an interpolation of Beanie Sigel’s Die.
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Ricci Riera ・Mark Spears ・Dacoury Natche ・Daniel Tannenbaum ・Ronald LaTour ・Anthony Tiffith ・Dave Jackson ・Mike Hector ・Travis Walton ・Brock Korsan
GOD. is lyrically about Kendrick discussing his successes and how it makes him feel. He also discusses why he worked so hard to get where he is today. The song has been certified Gold by RIAA.
Written by Kendrick Duckworth ・Patrick Douthit
DUCKWORTH. tells the true story of Kendrick’s father and his connection to Top Dawg Entertainment’s label head Anthony Tiffith. The song contains samples of Atari by Hiatus Kaiyote, Ostavi Trag by September, Let the Drums Speak by Fatback Band and Be Ever Wonderful by Ted Taylor.
Kendrick Lamar’s artistry ascended to newer heights with DAMN. It was truly one of the best albums in the past five years. Ironically, Kendrick released his newest album at the time of this post, five years after the release of DAMN. The album has gotten me during a tough period and is definitely amongst the best of rap albums. -MW.