500 Word Review: Kendrick Lamar “DAMN.”

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“DAMN.” was not made for the layman. There aren’t as many straight jams compared to “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” and the tracks that do qualify as such aren’t as instantly memorable as “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” and its kind. However, this does not lessen the greatness of this album; it just takes time to appreciate. Unlike most popular music, this record focuses on its role as art first, and entertainment second. Unfortunately, its artistic themes take work to understand. Kendrick should not expect the average listener to do a close reading analysis of his lyrics to fully enjoy his music, but “DAMN.’s” popularity shows he can do just that.

Kendrick is still a superb lyricist unrivaled in skill, and so his album’s concepts are explored seamlessly. It discusses the apparent discrimination, or even damnation, towards Black Americans, and a list of emotions and their relationship to the traits of wickedness and weakness. He relates the symbolic curse towards African Americans to the biblical smiting of the Israelites for betraying God. The blindness of white people and the inability of blacks to return from wickedness to weakness are his proposed explanations of the continued plight of Black Americans’ treatment and prejudice by other Americans of different racial backgrounds. In “BLOOD.” he calls attention to the failure of whites to recognize the challenges African Americans face, sampling a shameful FOX news report, and symbolizes this ignorance with a blind woman in his narrative. “DNA.” illuminates the difficulty of abandoning wickedness by simply being being born black, born into what he describes as a “sinful culture”. The power of vicious cycles is further explored in “LUST.”. Specifically, Kendrick argues that people resent change and lust for routine. Even in the face of sudden external changes like the election of Trump, lives on an individual level hardly change, hence the tragedy of the African American struggle. Kendrick stays away from the high levels of braggadocio, common in rap, apart from its satirical use in songs like “HUMBLE.” He balances the volume of such songs depicting wickedness with an equal number dissecting his own weaknesses. The album closes out with “DUCKWORTH.”, which completely illuminates Kendrick’s brilliant ideas. His rapping skill is just as impressive as his detailed concepts. Simply put, he may be the best rapper alive and the album reflects that; there isn’t need to deliberate further.

“DAMN.” has a different style than Kendrick’s previous work. The production is simpler, cleaner, and easier to appreciate than the volume of activity in TPAB. There are trap and pop influences, like the beat in “DNA.”, and multiple featured singers, but they are in good taste. One of my few complaints about the album is regarding its sampling. All the samples are very cool, but are misused in a few places. In “DUCKWORTH.”, the first syllable of the word “darling” is sampled and loudly repeated on the upbeat, competing with Kendrick’s rapping. It is jarring and confusing as to why it was included. Apart from this flaw, and a couple of repetitive hooks like the one in “HUMBLE.”, this album is difficult to criticize. Overall it is an exceptional and original work of art with significant ideas.

 

Score: 8.5/10

 

Album Review by Zachary Norton, May 2017

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Vinyl and Cassette News: Man Eats Vinyl Copy of “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” Because Kendrick Lamar Did Not Release An Album On Sunday

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In what is probably the most bizarre news story we’ve ever covered at Erik’s Album Reviews, apparently a Reddit user, /u/CousinTyrone, made an agreement with himself via Reddit that if Kendrick Lamar did not release a new album on Easter Sunday, he would eat a vinyl copy of Kendrick’s monumental album, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”.

The speculation of this potential double/related album began when Kendrick himself released his fourth full length album, “Damn”, on April 14th, which was Good Friday.  Reddit threads quickly erupted after the release and the theory that Kendrick would follow up the 4th studio album with a 5th one called “Nation” on Easter Sunday soon arose.  The dual release would be symbolic of the two religious holidays the albums would be released on, and when put together, the dual album would be called “Damnation”.  This theory instantly grew in popularity and approval and soon, after /u/CousinTyrone announced that he was so certain this dual release project would happen that if it didn’t he would eat a vinyl copy of the sophomore full length album, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”.

Of course, “Nation”, or any other album by Kendrick, was not released last Sunday, and because of this, /u/CousinTyrone took to Youtube to prove to the world that he would in fact eat a vinyl record.  The Reddit user also added in ice cream and chocolate chips to the musical concoction to help the drink taste less like “gravel”, which according to him is what vinyl tastes like apparently.  The user himself also went on to later say that he took “A LOT” of laxatives to pass the record as fast as he could because, as it turns out, eating a vinyl record isn’t all that good for you (who would’ve known?).  Despite the laxatives, /u/CousinTyrone was still feeling the side effects that come with eating vinyl at least 16 hours after the video was filmed, further showing why it might not be the best idea to digest your favorite pressing of an album.

The video of this impressive(?) feat is attached below, and it is 1000% worth watching.  Also, in Kendrick Lamar news, our “Damn” review is in the works and will be out very soon, so stay tuned and don’t forget to check back in for more breaking news stories, which may or may not be as bizarre as this one.