While it has been nearly three years since the original release of Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 record DAMN., the Compton King is able to add a more relevant message as the days pass in America that speaks on both community and individual unification. This coalition that forms through his sound, takes multiple stances; an alert stance against oppressors, but then also the clutches of fame and the pitfalls of one’s own psyche.
Opening the 14 track theatrical piece comes with peaks and valleys like most records, but DAMN. is able to directly place the listener into Lamar’s shoes where he can sometimes shout into the void of desperation and loss. As he describes through a sample on “BLOOD.,” Eric Bolling and Kimberly Guilfoyle explain, “Lamar stated his views on police brutality with the line in the song, quote ‘And we hate the popo, wanna kill us in the street fo’ sho.’” Lamar then transitions into a high-powered caliber rifle disguised as “DNA.” which is three minutes of straight rhymes and one of the strongest displays of energy through production as well.
The beat switch in the middle of the track with production handled entirely by Mike WiLL Made-It there is a symbiotic connection between the two where Lamar is boosted up and able to suspend himself. He begins by explaining, “I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA, cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace inside my DNA. I got power, poison, pain, and joy inside my DNA. I got hustle though, ambition flow inside my DNA. I was born like this, since one like this, immaculate conception.” As the track continues to build and eventually hits this brick wall where the instrumentation can jump into a less bombastic and more militant march, he then is less relaxed and more of a ferocious entity.
He becomes belligerent, explaining, “Sippin’ from a Grammy, walkin’ in the building. Diamond in the ceiling, marble on the floor, beach inside the window, peekin’ out the window. Baby in the pool, Godfather goals, Only Lord knows I’ve been goin’ hammer, dodgin’ paparazzi, freakin’ through the cameras.” The track “DNA” alone is a piece that immediately invokes a sense of overarching potential and aptitude, translating perfectly as a riot within DAMN.
At other times, DAMN. is not a screaming match with himself and instead, tracks like “PRIDE.” are the Sistine Chapel’s where the beauty overflows from the speakers to embody and overwhelm the listener. With production that features Steve Lacy from The Internet, the two pair up with Anna Wise who delivers a chorus that is synonymous with deep-rooted allure. With different dives and digs that Lamar takes, DAMN. is his most approachable hip-hop record and as such, brings a digestible near hour of rough waters and smoothing sailing in the same hand.
When DAMN. reaches the inevitable end, the message was overbearing and almost impossible to carry without wanting to immediately restart the entire process of listening. He at one time was the soundtrack for protest and marches and Lamar is able to put more weight into his words and action, rather than his material gold.