Kendrick Lamar’s fourth studio masterpiece, DAMN., has received unsurmountable critical acclaim as of its release on April 14th, 2017. Placing #1 on the US Billboard 200 and top ten on numerous charts around the world. This album truly embodies King Kendrick’s style, from his eloquent flow to his powerful lyrics. Recurring themes and significant elements of symbolism are used to give the entire album one cohesive tone. With a tracklist fourteen songs long, the album features songs with a variety of feelings, from Lamar’s aggressive, abrasive rapping to in “DNA.” to a serenading sound in “LOVE.”.
Without picking apart the album too much, it shows a truly amazing level of production. Produced by Top Dawg and Aftermath (founded by Dr. Dre), some of the hip hop industries finest went to work on this album. With tracks being mixed by famous producers such as The Alchemist and Top Dawg CEO Anthony Tiffith, practically every beat is gold. The level of skill put into the percussion of every single song is evident, with the very Kendrick-esque high hats and snare at the forefront complementing his flow. Another aspect that really suits Lamar’s music is the absolutely thundering bass, prominent in songs like “Backseat Freestyle” from m.A.A.d city, and “HUMBLE.”. At face value, this hip hop album is the result of phenomenal musicianship, but its deeply written lyrics take it to another level.
Every moment of this 55 minute album is used to induce the mood that Lamar wanted. With some deep rooted symbolism throughout, the messages are prominent. Religion has been a motif of Lamar’s works in the past. From “untitled 03” from untitled unmastered, to m.A.A.d. city’s “Sing about me”, he uses this deterministically in his music. The tracks “LOYALTY.”, “PRIDE.”, and particularly “GOD.” add to this theme on DAMN. Even the title of the album itself alludes to this. Along with motifs and themes, symbolism and metaphors are used to a great extent. One of the major elements of artistic significance is the purposeful juxtaposition of song titles. Songs like “PRIDE.” and “HUMBLE.” are placed next to each other on the track listing, creating interesting contrast. Every song appears to be placed in deliberate contrast to another. Most of these contradictions involve human vice, a theme that Kendrick followed on Section.80.
Being K-dot’s most recent studio album since To Pimp a Butterfly, the expectations for this anticipated album were set high, and they were met. selling over 600,000 copies within a week of its release, DAMN. was a well received, distinct, and flavorful album.