College of DuPage's student newspaper | Est. 1967

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“DAMN.” is an understatement

Hardship, seen through Lamar’s lens

Lucas Koprowski, Editor-In-Chief

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Kendrick Lamar has solidified his craft to be on the same level as Michelangelo and Pablo Picasso. The evolution from his debut release “Section.80” to the outstanding and highly revered “To Pimp A Butterfly” has elevated his status from being just another Lil’ Yatchy or Big Sean to a father of the modern rap scene.

His lyricism and style have taken sharp turns at every album. He challenges himself to evolve not only as an artist, but as a storyteller and a human. His music does not tell the story of Kendrick Lamar, but everyone around him who he sees has fallen into a similar path to his own. His tone and articulation force his audience to pick apart every line of his songs and draw their own conclusions.

His multilayered writing, coupled with the production quality that rappers like Drake and J. Cole can only have while trapped in wet dreams, is what has led Lamar to rise to the top of a thick concreted scene and elevated his status onto the same as Snoop Dogg or Tupac.

However, that’s not to say musical geniuses can’t hiccup along the way to the hall of fame. His release of “DAMN.” was not disappointing in any major way. However, the album itself is disjointed, and loses a lot of kick while listening from cover-to-cover. That isn’t to say Lamar has lost his mojo after releasing the genre-defining “To Pimp A Butterfly.”

“DAMN.” is by far Lamar’s most self-destructive and introspective collection as of date. Every song pertains to a part of Lamar’s mind that’s weighing him down heavily. The majority of these tracks hit hard as singles, but within the collection they seem almost sporadic and bipolar.

The intro interlude “BLOOD.” starts the album off on an eerie tone. An echo of distressed men interlaces the atmosphere with questions of wickedness and weakness within one’s own moral fabric. Lamar follows up with a story about him wanting to help a blind woman find what she’s looking for, only to be smited by his own blindness brought on by empathy and is shot dead on the scene.

After the gunshot has fallen, echoes of a Fox News reporter overanalyzing Lamar’s anti-police lyrics infuriates Lamar back to life into an almost demonic morphology. His frustration with white media’s misunderstandings as to why he wrote those lyrics fully thrusts himself into “DNA.” The conviction of Lamar pulls into the song as he’s demonically describing his loyalty to his bloodline back in Compton.

The deep bass cuts through extremely well, and helps progress the album throughout its 14 tracks. In tracks heavily influenced by spite and anger like “DNA.” the bass almost tends to drown out the lyrics, making these selections a lot more aggressive.

In the following track “YAH.” he falls back into an omniscient voice. His monotone droning goes on about how his public persona affects his family and his own perspective of his stature. He goes back to the same Fox News clip of the anchors criticizing his lyrics, but with his niece now watching them say his lyrics only hurt the black community.

He goes onto talking about his admiration towards his successes, placing his character on the biblical level of Israelites, who in the Book of Deuteronomy are God’s chosen people. He goes even further to talk about how the black community are the chosen ones of God, due to their hardships most likely referencing the civil rights movement and how poorly lower-income black populations are treated within the U.S…

His references of Deuteronomy are laced throughout the album, with the perpetual idea that the black community has become the modern-day Israelites. His personal conviction to God allows him to become critical in a detached manner of his community towards their ideas of success coinciding with illegal and sinuous activity. “I know he walks the Earth; But it’s money to get, bitches to hit, yah; Zeroes to flip, temptation is, yah; First on my list, I can’t resist, yah”

Throughout the album, he constantly flips between two characters within himself that contradict and cause his depression and anger to set ablaze. In the following track “ELEMENT.” his attitude flips towards willing to die and kill for his ambitions. The death of his grandma focuses his anger into a passionate flame that no longer stands for his family, but the entire Compton community.

After “ELEMENT.” however, the album diverts into a mess of conflicting productions that are aimed well, however miss Lamar’s status quo of quality seen throughout his discography. “LOYALTY.” is the absolute worst track on the listing. It sounds close to a Soundcloud demo, and Rihanna makes the entire bit come off like an early Calvin Harris release from his album “18 Months.”

“HUMBLE.” is a flame-engulfed track popping off a catapult with the intention of setting ablaze the monotonous and repetitive rappers who use the same beats rehashed in order stay relevant in the scene, as well catching the media’s interpretation of beautify and humanity along the way.

The best track in this collection has to go to either “LUST.” or “XXX.”

“LUST.” owns a mischievous tone that sets the scene to be disgusting in nature, while connected to lyrics asking if he can just “put the head in.” “XXX.” somehow makes U2 relevant again, with Lamar utilizing their soft oaky tone over his description of how the hood takes away any aspirations towards an education and aims them towards pipe dreams like gang life or rapping.

There are ideas littered throughout this collection that piece the mind of Lamar into an omniscient being of his own creation and a symbol for the black community. Although disjointed and lackluster at times, when he finds his stride he’s able to capitalize on his iconic storytelling and push his narrative beyond anyone near the same realm of rap can achieve.

“DUCKWORTH.” stamps his collection with a classic beat and a realization that the black community is pointing fingers around to find the cause of their problems, when in actuality it’s all within their own morality. The song follows the story of Lamar’s father Kenneth Duckworth, and a single event that could have ended his father’s life and altered Lamar’s life in ways only fiction could recreate.
With one final gunshot popped off into Lamar’s being, the album reverses completely and ends back where he began. The blind woman is God. She knows nothing, is completely lost, yet knows all.

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College of DuPage's student newspaper | Est. 1967
“DAMN.” is an understatement