Kendrick Lamar: DAMN.

8/10 King Kendrick.
“And we hate the po-po/when they kill us dead in the streets fo sho”, runs the line from Kendrick Lamar’s 2014 sophomore album To Pimp A Butterfly. At the end of the opening track on its follow up DAMN., it can be heard again – this time sampled as a sound bite from a Fox News presenter criticising Lamar’s performance of the adopted #blacklivesmatter anthem “Alright” on the BET awards. “Ugh puhleeeze…” scoffs his female co-presenter in reply; “I don’t like it”.
It’s the same laughable hackneyed argument that white middle class America has been peddling ever since lil’ Kendrick was on his uncle’s knee in 1980’s Compton: That for want of a better term – ‘gangsta rap’ is one of the main culprits for inciting (and perpetuating) violence amongst young black males.
It sets the tone well on an album that deals with notions of America on the brink of apocalypse, racial barriers, and the new white White House. Whether he likes it or not, Lamar has found himself the voice of a new generation of disenfranchised youth who would very much like to see an end to things like white privilege and police brutality – things that continue to rear their ugly heads on a regular basis.
In tackling those kinds of topics, it’s fair to say that lyrically not much has changed since the last album. Where DAMN. does differ though, is the departure from the blue-note jazz and retro disco vibes of To Pimp A Butterfly to something much more straightforward musically. Simple beats and uncomplicated mellow melodies provide the canvas, and apart from getting riled up on ‘DNA.’ and the heated lead single ‘HUMBLE.’, the album generally finds Lamar rapping along to a more relaxed tempo.
All told, DAMN. is another solid offering from the Compton MC, and proves he’s still light-years ahead of the competition.
Dan Ashcroft
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