Kendrick Lamar’s mom said this was her son’s best album yet, and I am hardpressed to disagree with that. Damn. came to me in the late night during a thesis crunch at Starbucks. I subscribe to all the major streaming platforms – Spotify, Tidal and Apple (with student discount all three are $15 in total) music – so that I never miss an album drop. This album literally got my first full draft done and I will be citing Lamar in my acknowledgements.
My first contact with Damn. was through the backlash that Lamar received for commenting on how women should look in the lines “I am so sick and tired of the Photoshop/Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor/ Show me something natural like ass with some stretch marks” on “HUMBLE.” I am not in disagreement with what many women of color have brought up. Our physical forms do not exist to please men. Lamar was likely trying to make a positive comment, but there is nothing wrong with anyone choosing to wear makeup etc. Also, the fact that he mentions stretch marks on the ass and not acne scars on the face adds to the objectification of women. Flaws are not only acceptable if they are a part of sexual appeal to men. Even if Lamar is a culture elevator, he still exists within our culture, which is misogynistic. But pay attention that I did not write misogynistic rap culture, because with Trump as our president, it should be obvious that this issue goes way beyond a musical genre.
Still, that song bangs and I still wake up with “my left stroke just went viral!” stuck in my head. My favorite song on the album is “LOYALTY.” featuring Rihanna. I love Yonce and Lamar’s “Freedom” but Kendrick and Riri are cut from a similar cloth. They are two rebels and when they rap together on the same track it is perfect. Rihanna and Lamar’s don’t give a fuck attitude are not put on. Plus, seeing how excited Rihanna was for Lamar’s Coachella set felt genuine. I could see how a friendship between the two would work.
My least favorite song is “LOVE.” On every good album there is something tacky. Honestly, the back beat sounds like some Jesse McCartney nonsense. Call me jaded, but I think leaving the sexy ballads to The Weeknd is the move at this point.
The question section of the song “If I didn’t ride blade on the curb, would you still love me?/ If I made up my mind at work, would you still love me?” sounds like a discount version of 21 questions by 50 Cent. It is half as entertaining and has no substance.
It is all good though, since songs such as “DNA.” and “DUCKWORTH.” make up for the emptiness of “LOVE.” which is really the only weak spot on the album. “DNA.” is kind of like the backstory to “Alright” from To Pimp A Butterfly. Same strong beat, and it provides an explanation to what black people are coming up from. The song samples a Fox interview that states that Lamar “has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”
Lamar explores this further in the dreamy “YAH.” “DUCKWORTH.” is an example of the storytelling listeners came to love on Good Kid M.A.A.D. City. It is storytelling in the most literal sense. Taking the listener to Compton to meet Lamar’s Anthony is also an exploration of how Lamar became who he is. The final lines are “Because if Anthony killed Ducky/ Top Dawg could be servin’ life/ While I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight.” A look into how life comes from all the choices people make.