Album Review: Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.


Author: Dylan Breon

Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. is an album that accomplishes a whole lot. DAMN. receives a unique reception from listeners as its appeal is not exclusive to hip hop heads and dedicated fans but extends to those who don’t necessarily spend their time scrolling rap genius studying the lyrics of their favorite rappers.

Kendrick’s award-nominated album found great success, becoming double platinum within its first three months and being placed the best album of 2017 by 16 of the most popular magazines. One aspect of DAMN. that powers its importance in Kendrick’s discography is its achievement of tremendous success both commercially and artistically. Although commercial and artistic values are in no way mutual, it is not uncommon for artists, especially in the hip hop sector, to achieve commercial success with a loss of artistic value. DAMN. is a beautiful album artistically as it is packed full of thematic lyrics interwoven with moving samples that assist in Kendrick’s effort.

This album truly has a whole lot going on thematically and sonically. Kendrick provides listeners with an introspective stream of consciousness that stands in stark contrast to his previous works. DAMN. has a much more vulnerable tone than his other works as it dives deep into the lonely, sad and mad emotions of Kendrick. This tone further strengthens the power of this dense record as these emotions are almost impossible to resist while listening to the album.

Thematically this album is hard to pin. Its dynamic nature strays away from central themes bringing listeners on a rollercoaster ride of feelings and Kendrick’s moral compass. Through this journey Kendrick provides listeners with messages in a different nature than previous works. Instead of powerfully and repeatedly enforcing a central message, Kendrick manages to present his messages in a way that essentially leaves the ends untied, left for the listener to draw their own conclusion. In this way the album evokes critical thinking in the listeners as they draw their own conclusions.

This aspect of DAMN. greatly pays to its artistic value as it creates a more involved listening experience. Kendrick is never shy to speak on significant topics of morality, culture and emotions, yet with DAMN (unlike other works that pound a clear central theme into listeners ears) he allows readers to draw many of their own conclusions which only assists in the influence of his messages.

With Anthony ‘Top Dawg’ Tiffith as its executive producer, DAMN. is sonically dynamic as its sound presents many dichotomies such as the balance between raw and refined sounds. The record, at times, sounds like a symphonic pop melody, such as “LOVE” with Zacari’s smooth vocals, while, at other times, rattles your ears as a harsh, hard hitting rap track like “DNA”. Individual tracks in the album even have a huge change in sound within one themselves such as “XXX” which begins with a faced paced, raw rap verse then completely flips to a soft, melodic sound assisted by the vocals of U2.

The differing sounds of this album also greatly attribute to its success both commercially and artistically. DAMN. provides listeners with easy, pop style sounds as well as dense, raw hip hop vibes that appeal to a wide range of listeners which is largely why this brilliant album received such good reception.