Kendrick Lamar album ‘DAMN.’ mixes religious themes with loyalty, lust and love

In Art, Arts & Entertainment, Music, Reviews
Kendrick Lamar's latest album 'DAMN.' proves the rapper is the best in the genre. (Courtesy of Interscope Records)

Two years after the release of “To Pimp A Butterfly,” and just a year after the unexpected delivery of “untitled unmastered.,” Kendrick Lamar solidifies himself as the best in the rap game with “DAMN.”

The album opens up with a smooth jazz skit on “BLOOD.,” where Kendrick speaks of approaching a blind woman on the streets to assist her, but it takes an unexpected turn.

Such as the ending of “BLOOD.,” the second track “DNA.” takes listeners by surprise as it hits heavy with a loud bass and Lamar speaking of how the rap game seeped into his roots.

“I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA,” the rapper recites, as he makes reference to his position in the industry and what has made him into the best.

The rapper also compares himself to Jesus Christ in this verse, “I was born like this, since one like this, immaculate conception, I transform like this, perform like this was Yeshua’s new weapon.”

The album then moves into a soft-spoken track in “YAH.,” which would have fit well on “To Pimp A Butterfly.” The track title is also a Hebrew word which translates to God.

“ELEMENT.” provides listeners with possibly the most uplifting and feel-good song of the year. The hook and chorus are what steal the track as he makes reference to stunting on his enemies and putting them in their place.

It’s surprising to get so much variety so early in the album as it transitions again into a slow soft-spoken song in “FEEL.” The drum line in the back accompanies the flow of the artist so seamlessly, it reminds one of samples heard on “untitled unmastered.”

Kendrick also connects with pop star Rihanna in the track “LOYALTY.,” where the singer complements the rapper on the chorus. “It’s a secret society, all we ask is trust, all we got is us,” they sing together. Even though the artist had plenty of features on his previous album, none of them were as high profile as Rihanna or U2.

The album then transitions into “PRIDE.,” which follows the continuous theme of the album contrasting between tracks as its successor “HUMBLE.”, is a more up-tempo club banger, and was the first single released from the project.

This track is also a direct statement from the artist to his competition, telling them to humble themselves. It is a nod to his track “How Much A Dollar Cost,” where the rapper’s conversation with God told him to humble himself.

Kendrick gives us an artist to look forward to, in Zacari, who is featured on “LOVE.” The track juxtaposes the one before it, “LUST.,” in title and theme.

The surprise track of the album is by far “XXX.” The first part is a fast, hard-hitting beat followed by a smooth chorus by U2’s Bono.

“FEAR.” brings back the feeling of  “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” where the rapper shares his past like he does in “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.” He chronicles his life starting at the age of 7, speaking about his teenage years at 17, and his life as a 27-year-old.

The artist places a period on the religious themes found throughout the album with the track “GOD.,” where he speaks about how he is looked up to in the rap game as the “rap god.” This track proves Lamar has become completely confident with his status as top in the game.

With the conclusion of the album with “DUCKWORTH.,” we get a lot of variety in one track, as the beat is very reminiscent of old school hip-hop. The artist finds a way to tell us a story of his mentor Top Dawg in his younger days.

He also leaves fans with speculation as he replays a snippet of every single track on the album in reverse before having the intro start up again, possibly signifying a resurrection.
When all’s said and done about the album, the only word that echoes throughout is “DAMN.”

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