Kendrick Lamar is hands down one of, if not, the best rapper and lyricist of this era of hip-hop. The Grammy winner has won over the industry and music listeners with his tongue twisting and thought-provoking metaphors, with his style and sound heavily influence by his hometown, Compton, and many West Coast hip hop pioneers including N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Too $hort. Since the release of his debut album, Good Kid M.A.A.D City, he’s been the poster child for conscious hip-hop and with his second album, To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick’s lyrics and symbolisms have been used as a tool to teach about social issues in black America and in urban communities. Fans and music listeners gave more appreciation to To Pimp a Butterfly after Kendrick lost to Taylor Swift for Album of the Year at the 58th Grammy Awards in 2016. Many felt that Lamar was robbed from that award and that he was more deserving of the award.
Even with his popularity growing, Lamar still faces controversy and backlash. After his performance at the Grammy, conservative news stations and report believed Lamar was voicing his opinions as “anti-police” and label his music as “gangsta rap”, which is not the case. Lamar has also been the subject of alleged misogyny and accused of policing the bodies of black women. Recently, as he dropped his video for his new single, “Humble”, Lamar was under attack for his portrayal of women. In the song, he raps,
“I’m so fuckin’ sick and tired of the photoshop/Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor/Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks”.
Many found the lyrics misogynist and shaming those who decide to wear hair and body enhancements. People were more enraged when they found out the model used for that specific scene, Carter Kim, has a multicultural background and critics even demanded she speak out on the video.
In the midst of the controversy, Kendrick hinted the release of his latest album, and on Friday, April 14, he released DAMN.
Like many hip-hop fans, I was anxious for its release since everyone was wondering what direction the Compton rapper. DAMN is by far, Kendrick’s most personal album. With previous albums, we got to hear Kendrick’s voice as a hometown hero and the political activist, but with this recent album we still get a mix of that but we also get a personal perspective of Kendrick.
With songs like “BLOOD” and “YAH”, he responds to critics who downplay and twist his message of black power and police brutality, including Geraldo Rivera and Donald Trump. He also responds to those who interview him for publicity and not because they genuinely take interest in his work. “XXX” also talks about FOX and Conservative America’s views on hip-hop and the inner city, and how many don’t want to acknowledge the actual problems of urban communities; many just want to look at it from a surface level. “FEAR” is another song discussing the issues of urban communities and the struggles many black youth face today. The song also goes into Lamar’s struggles of self-doubt and his own fears of life.
In the album, Lamar gets personal about his own life. In “GOD” he professing his own forgiveness for the sins he committed. “LUST” and “LOVE” talk about the contrast of partying and living life in the fast lane, and then talking about loving one person and not leaving their side. If you think this is a sappy album, don’t be mistaken, Lamar has a few turn up tracks like “DNA” which is a reflection of his personality and his presence in hip-hop, and songs such as “FEEL”, “PRIDE”, and “LOYALTY” featuring Rihanna is reflection of Kendrick’s circle of friends and the challenges he’s faced with people through his road to success.
It’s very rare that an album comes out, and you can listen to it from beginning to end, especially a hip-hop album. I believe this album we’re starting to see his deeper thoughts unravel and see an explanation of why he does what he does, which is a beautiful thing. I highly suggest you buy and download DAMN. and listen to this. It’s a musical experience by Kendrick Lamar that, once again, you can relate to and will get you to think and relate to others.