Album Focus – DAMN., Kendrick Lamar

“What happens on Earth stays on Earth”

I’m a big fan of Kendrick Lamar. Admittedly, I haven’t been consistent in listening to all of his work, but ‘DAMN.’ has thrown him, and his music, into the spotlight and consequently back into my playlists.

‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ was the album that brought me onto Lamar’s music. Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe became quickly one of my favourite songs, with m.A.A.d City, Swimming Pools, Backseat Freestyle, Money Trees and Poetic Justice all on repeat.

His next album, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’, I didn’t get so into, but loved the singles ‘i’, ‘King Kunta’ and ‘Alright’.

As for ‘DAMN.’, I listened to the whole album on repeat for days after its release. It made me realise what I had been missing by not listening to Kendrick for so long.

From start to finish, every song has a brilliant instrumental, with Lamar’s incomparable lyrics perfectly laid over the top. Another notable aspect of the album is the vast amount of samples he has used

Kendrick Lamar starts this album with a hard-hitting opener in ‘BLOOD.’, in which he describes offering his help to a blind woman. When he asks if she has lost something, she responds, “Yes. You have lost something…”

“You have lost… your life” (gunshot)

We’re seamlessly transitioned into the second, and my personal favourite, track, ‘DNA.’. This song never stops, a flawless continuous flow, interrupted only by a glitching effect followed by a glorious drop in the beat which you can’t help but dance to. It is a Mike WiLL Made-It beat, the mastermind behind Rae Sremmurd’s ‘Black Beatles’, and who has worked with Rihanna, Big Sean, Lil Wayne and Beyoncé. In this song are another sample from FOX News as well as a sample from a live performance of ‘Mary Jane’ by Rick James integrated into the instrumental.

Following ‘DNA.’, is ‘YAH.’, a song with a very catchy hook. The ‘Yah yah’ is irresistible to sing along to. I also really enjoy Kendrick unashamedly calling out FOX News for their criticism of him, showing he’s more than willing to stand up for himself. This is a running theme through the album, with the mentions in this song and the snippets of FOX News segments he has put in his music.

Next on the album is ‘FEEL.’. The instrumental samples ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ by Fleurie and ‘Stormy’ by O.C. Smith. It’s a slower and more powerful song, talking about his feelings, as the title suggests.

‘LOYALTY.’ is a stand-out song, as it was always going to be, featuring Rihanna. A surprise sample of 24K Magic by Bruno Mars opens the song, which then leads into sumptuous Rihanna vocals and Lamar lyrics about, you guessed it, loyalty. The song also features a lyric sample from 2000 Jay-Z song ‘Get Your Mind Right Mami’.

‘HUMBLE.’ picks up the pace more. This is the first and thus for only single from the album. Another Mike WiLL Made-It-produced track, it features a catchy tune and a chorus which will get stuck in your head. ‘Be humble, sit down! Be humble.’ is not easily forgotten.

‘LOVE.’ featuring Zacari is my second favourite song on the album after ‘DNA.’. I’d never heard of Zacari before, but I absolutely love his voice. It has traces of old-school The Weeknd, and adds a really nice undertone to Kendrick Lamar’s rapping. It’s a great combination and makes for a excellent track. It’s a more emotional song on the album, and you believe that Kendrick means every word as he’s musing about love.

There’s an unexpected feature on the track ‘XXX.’. It’s rock legends U2, the lead singer Bono singing the chorus. Surprising to us the feature may be, it shouldn’t be, as it turns out that Kendrick and Bono have talked regularly about linking up, and it finally happened. It works brilliantly, in a song that covers some deep topics.

I really like the opening to the third-from-last song ‘FEAR.’. It begins with a sample from ‘Poverty’s Paradise’ by The 24-Carat Black, some beautiful vocals which are then repeated in the background throughout the song. This completes my list of the songs that I have enjoyed the most from the album, although like I have said, the quality never drops and Lamar is sensational throughout.

Kendrick fans, and rap fans as a whole, are going to absolutely love this album, although chances are anyone who’s a fan of good rap is also a fan of Lamar, and will have had this album on repeat the same as me.

One word to sum up the album? Damn!

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