by Carla Bynum
Kendrick surprised fans with the release of the song “The Heart Part 4” on March 23rd. There was speculation that the album would be released on April 7th because of a line in the song that said, “Y’all got til’ April 7th to get y’all shit together.” However, it was revealed that the album would be released on Good Friday instead.
When Kendrick spoke about the album in an interview with The New York Times, he said that his focus is going back to his community and others around the world. “To Pimp a Butterfly was addressing the problem. I’m in a space now where I’m not addressing the problem anymore. We’re in a time where we exclude one major component out of this whole thing called life: God.”
The album starts with the song “BLOOD” and introduces two prevalent themes throughout the album: life and death and weakness and wickedness. He tells the story of an encounter between him and a blind lady who looked like she needed some help. He tried to help her because she looked like she had lost something.
“Hello, ma’am, can I be of any assistance,” he said. “It seems to me you have lost something. I would like to help you find it.”
She replied, “Oh yes, you have lost something. You’ve lost your life.”
And then there’s a gunshot.
The song ends with a clip from two Fox News reporters criticizing the lyrics to his song “Alright.” The song was meant to uplift but was turned into something ugly, which it is not.
Kendrick embraces his heritage by acknowledging the unique things that make up his “DNA.” His genetic makeup is made up of royalty, loyalty, pain, passion, hustle, and ambition, to name a few.
Kung Fu Kenny adopts a laid back sound for the next track “YAH.” He admits that he has a lot of theories and suspicions in his head. He is on a journey to stay focused and he wants to keep his family close and get money.
Kendrick won’t let anyone take him out of his “ELEMENT.” and no matter what he does he’s going to make it “sexy.” He raps about his journey to get where he is today and he’s not going to let anyone get in his way. Lebron James introduced the world to this song by dancing to it on his Instagram page.
On the track “FEEL.,” Kendrick reveals feelings he’s had since the fame. He feels helpless and like he’s losing his focus and patience. He feels like there’s nobody praying or looking out for him and that’s causing him to have these negative thoughts.
In their long overdue first collaboration, K. Dot and Rihanna join forces to talk about the importance of “LOYALTY” and trust in relationships. This one is sure to be a radio hit.
Kendrick finds it difficult to humble himself on the track “PRIDE.” He raps about his bout with his pride and faith. The song starts with Steve Lacy singing that “pride will be the death of you and me.” Perhaps the most memorable line of the song is, “I can’t fake humble just ‘cause your ass is insecure.” I’m sure we will see that quote all over social media.
The album’s first single “HUMBLE.” was released on March 30th and immediately created a buzz among fans. On the track, Kendrick encourages his peers to humble themselves. There has been much speculation that the song is a diss to Big Sean. Kenny also faced backlash from some women who felt that his verse about natural women and stretch marks was offensive. Bish whet.
The song debuted at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it the highest charting hip-hop single debut since 2010. The song also marks his highest charting song.
Kendrick raps about how people “LUST.” for material things and sexual desires. He also mentions the bible verse James 4:4, which says, “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” This verse is important for the song because lust is one of the deadly sins.
Listeners are introduced to a side of Kendrick that is RARE. In an unexpected turn, we are treated to the love song “LOVE.” featuring singer Zacari. The song is an ode to the love in his life, most likely his fiancée.
In yet another unexpected album moment, Kendrick is joined by U2 on the track “XXX.” The song goes hard and features K. Dot rapping about violence in the black community, including a situation where one of his friend’s son’s was murdered. The song focuses on political and religious themes.
Kendrick raps about three separate instances of “FEAR.” on the next track. The first verse is about the fear he had for his mother when he was younger. In the second verse, he’s now 17 and has an entirely different fear. He fears that he will die simply for being black. He fears he will be killed because of circumstances he has no control over. On the third verse, Kendrick reminisces about himself at 27 and how he feared losing everything he worked hard for. He also feared being judged by his family and community and felt as if he wasn’t doing enough.
“GOD.” is a braggadocios song where Kendrick raps about his success. He’s laughing all the way to the bank and feels on top of the world so that must be what God feels like.
The album concludes with the track “DUCKWORTH.,” a compelling and mind-blowing song that tells the story of how founder of Top Dawg Entertainment Anthony Tiffith used to run the streets. He robbed a KFC and a year later, he tried to do the same. One of the employees, Ducky, tried to get on Anthony’s good side to avoid any mishap and that decision changed his life. Towards the songs close, it is revealed that Ducky is Kendrick’s father. The song also features the theme of wicked and weakness that was introduced at the album’s start.
DAMN. was a highly anticipated album that did not disappoint. While I believe that Kendrick’s albums truly shine when he’s telling a story, this album is still a great collection of work. It sticks to the theme and his point is perfectly executed by the time we get to the end.
Kendrick showcases two different sides of himself. He goes hard on some songs and shows his wicked side while he shows weakness on some songs, a theme he introduced at the start of the album.
Recommended Tracks: “FEAR.” “DNA.” “LUST.” “XXX.” “DUCKWORTH.”