There are few rappers that come to mind in today’s hip-hop world who have an influence that goes beyond their music. Big influencers like J Cole, Logic, and A$AP Rocky have used the outlet to inspire others beyond just the sound – of course, this list is missing a very important name, the man behind the movement, Kendrick Lamar.
Kendrick seems to always (willingly) go under the radar for a little while, and the music community goes into a frenzy, playing detective, and conjuring up theories to predict what the rapper could possibly do next to cement himself on the throne. And then along comes DAMN., a lyrical masterpiece that goes above and beyond our contemporary expectation of rap.
The album directs its attention towards toggling between the very Kendrick theme of social dichotomy. The first line of the album is “is it wickedness or is it weakness?” which immediately sets the tone. It’s that binary theme sparking his fire throughout: Blood and DNA, Lust v. Love, Pride next to Humble, and Fear with God. It’s a ouzzle of his own making, and it’s solved with ability.
That ability, as always, comes from his writing. The lyrics in DAMN. prove to be brilliant, ruthless and powerful. Duckworth brings us back to the golden era of rap or a bright moment – Kendrick beautifully tells a story about two men whose lives will be changed forever in one interaction. He paints the picture of a gang banger (Anthony) that unfurls in such an incredible way that screenwriters might well be begging for the rights. It’s an utter cyclone of storytelling, emotive and unforgettable.
As rap fans are left trying to wrap their heads around the above, K Dot gives us Humble, a subtle diss track at every rapper in the game (stating that even if he’d quit today, he’d “still be the greatest”). This might seem contradictory due to the title of the song but for him – and us – it’s merely fact. Find a man who can blow your mind with lyrical brilliance and then come right back with a club banger in Humble and there may be cause for discussion. He talks, he walks, and he has no intention of stopping.