Lamar’s latest tops all in 2017

A day or two after “DAMN.” was released by Kendrick Lamar, I saw a Twitter post that showed the cover art, tracklist and had one question at the bottom: “What three words would you use to describe the album?”

I pondered this question for most of the day. I’d listened to the complete album a couple of times, and after hours of deliberation, I’d finally came to a conclusion of  “a lyrical Masterpiece.”

Unlike Kendrick’s last major piece, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” Kendrick is staying away from a huge encore of racially provocative thoughts and opinions, and instead is offering more of a steep winding bike trail into his personal life and opinions. “DAMN.” explores aspects of his life like religion and love, and it is truly one of the best albums to be released this year, and the past decade.

“BLOOD”: “BLOOD” is the first and only skits on the album. It details a fictional story about Lamar helping an old blind lady, but in turn gets shot for his efforts. It is one of many clues to the underlying theme of the album, the difference between weakness and wickedness. The skit closes out by blasting Fox News with a clip misquoting one of Lamar’s lyrics from “To Pimp A Butterfly” and propels itself into the next track, “DNA.”

“DNA”: Perhaps the  best song on the album, “DNA” is about loyalty and a critique of where Kendrick grew up. In the recently released music video, Don Cheadle and Lamar exchange bars in a rap battle-like scenario. After getting shocked, part of Lamar seems to be alive in Cheadle, as he takes the role of critiquing the hood that Lamar grew up in.

Although “DNA” is one of the least conceptualized songs on the project, it still delivers with an excellent use of up-tempo flow and beat. It is a reflection of what Lamar thinks he is, and what I agree with. It is a self boasting track that cements to the public that he is the best and makes sure the public knows it.

“YAH”: Like I said earlier, Lamar resents Fox News for criticizing his 2015 BET performance while not truly knowing rap’s role in the hood. While simultaneously criticizing Fox News, he also states that he is more than a rapper. There’s a line about how his niece even sees him on television, reiterating the fact that Lamar is more than a rapper to the ghetto, and he makes more than songs. He makes ways to get out, ways to be released from the clutching grips of the harsh and chaotic inner city jungle.

I, personally, don’t have any sort of clue of what it is like to live in South Central LA, but after listening to Lamar, I feel as if I can connect and see what problems every citizen goes through. Lamar speaks, saying how little is being done to preserve the lives that are lost amongst the humongous drug and homicide problems located in the inner cities.

“LOYALTY”: “LOYALTY” is “DAMN.”’s radio single and one of the best aesthetic songs on the album. The song, like the title, is about loyalty.

Continuing the theme from “DNA”, “LOYALTY” establishes the importance on being loyal in both platonic and intimate relationships. It asks who you are loyal and why — a central question Lamar asks often in his life.

The hole left in his life from drugs, failed relationships and materialism is creating a self doubt that Lamar goes through on his path of success. It’s one of the many looks into Lamar’s personal life.

The chorus focuses solely on giving the message of trust. “All we ask is trust” is repeated many times throughout the entire song, considering both Rihanna and Lamar’s weak personal relationships. Personally, listening to not only the song but the entire album, I think “LOYALTY” refers to all of the characters that Lamar grew up with in Compton, all the ones that left his side. He says that it was a mistake to leave him, considering the success he’s achieved.

“PRIDE”: Continuing the theme of deadly sins, “PRIDE” is about Lamar’s introspective view of himself and his actions, how his actions contradict his thoughts. He knows (and I agree) that he is the best rapper in the game, but his solemn and humble actions contradict that. His self-contained thinking is only extroverted through his music. His artistry is the only path we have into his mind and soul.

Both the beat and K-dot’s voice fluctuate on the track, symbolizing the difference between his own thoughts and conscience to his actions. It’s quite a deep concept for the album, and one of the few looks into Kendrick’s mind body and soul.

Aesthetically, this beat is one of my favorites on the album. It’s a slow rolling wave crashing into the sandy beaches on a cold, cloudy day. It brings back memories of sitting and staring at the rain pattering against the window. It’s calm and serene, contrary to the next track on the album “Humble.”

“HUMBLE”: “Humble’s upbeat lyrics and classic beat make it one of the greatest songs Lamar has ever released. It’s heavy beat and fast moving lyrics resemble “DNA.” Also like “DNA,” Lamar raps about how he is the best in the game, and he also throws sneak disses toward other top rappers Big Sean and Drake. The chorus involves Big Sean’s “catch phrase” he made famous in the earlier parts of his career.

“HUMBLE” doesn’t really focus on the message and theme of the album, but the beat and flow make up for its lack of story. Nevertheless, “HUMBLE” is one of the best on the album and of K-Dot’s career.

“LOVE (feat. Zacari)”: “LOVE,” like you’d expect, is about love and the women Lamar has fallen for over his life. It’s about the sacrifices and suffices Lamar has gone through throughout his life. The beat starts slow and lustful. As the song progresses so does the tempo.

The song is a deep and emotional connection through the troubled love life that Lamar has experienced. More or less, the song is a glorified love song to his significant others. It’s never specified who exactly the song goes out to or who it is about, but rather more of a generalization of all the lovers he’s been with over his life and career.

“XXX (Feat. U2)”: Lamar and the ’80s rock band team up on this unforgiving attention deficit mix about Lamar’s life from the streets to the recording booth. The song starts with Lamar rapping about his accolades on the street.

With metaphors about surviving the harshest conditions on the planet — the streets in Compton — he continues with his previously used character “little Johnny” as a representation of what average life is like growing up in the ghetto and how America dissuades kids to go on more respectable career paths instead of hustling on the street.

After this verse K-dot goes on to tell about how protective he is of his family and the story of an unnamed acquaintance that lost his only son because of “insufficient funds.” Lamar says in the remainder of the track that he would do anything as heinous to get back at someone who hurt a family member or friend, and take credit for it. It is a deep and encasing story about the hood and what it does to its patients. It’s one of the few times Kendrick brings up problems in the hood, contrary to his last album.

“XXX” is the best concept song on the album and is great at provoking thought and change in the inner city.

“GOD”: The final track on the album is about Lamar’s success and how it has made him into what he is today, but more importantly, it is about how all this success and arrogance has gone to his head.

“This what god feels like” is repeated in the chorus and is tied down to Lamar’s faith and success in the rap game. The first two verses go on to flauntingly about who Lamar is and what he has done in his career. The second verse starts like a slap in the face reminding K-dot he is a mortal man — that all his accomplishments are great and have propelled him to the top, but he still has more work to do. In a sense it is like a message to every rapper in the game. To be more humble and not to see themselves as a god. It is a deep soliloquy with a greater meaning behind the lyrics.

“DAMN.” is the best album to come out this year amongst other great albums so far. Playboi Carti, Joey Bada$$, Drake and Big Sean all have released timeless albums over this early year, but “DAMN.” will be remembered as the best. Lamar’s best album to date is an automatic and timeless project.

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