At Beats and Brews, we pride ourselves at celebrating Michigan based musicians….but, I’ve been a Kendrick Lamar fan since his debut on the XXL freshmen 2011 class and have followed his career ever since, in fact, his debut Aftermath album, “Good Kid, M.a.a.d City” is one of my favorite albums of any genre. So, on April 14th, 2017 when his third Major label album , “DAMN” was released I was refreshing my Spotify till it was updated.
I have listen to this album about 5 times straight through now to get an accurate grasp of the meaning of the lyrics on each song, the album’s intro, BLOOD, seems to be him grasping the fact that he became this superstar and with that you can never go back to having a normal life, with the line, “Oh yes…you have lost something, you’ve lost…your life” gave me that impression upon initial listen. The album contains base heavy hitting singles such as, “HUMBLE and DNA” and more mellow songs such as, “YAH, LUST and PRIDE.”
One thing that always stood out to me about Kendrick Lamar besides lyrics is his vocal range, there are songs where he could go from a complete baritone voice then manage to hit a soprano, such as on the Travis Scott single, “Goosebumps” featured on Scott’s album, “Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight” released in 2016. On tracks such as, LUST and Pride, he seems to accomplish this feat once again.
There are three features on this album, one from Rihanna on the song, LOYALTY, one from a lesser know but talented, Zacari on the song LOVE and an eyebrow raising feature from U2 on the song XXX.
XXX, FEAR and DUCKWORTH are the three songs that stuck out to me on the album all for different reasons.
“At 27, my biggest fear was losin’ it all
Scared to spend money, had me sleepin’ from hall to hall
Scared to go back to Section 8 with my mama stressin’
30 shows a month and I still won’t buy me no Lexus
What is an advisor? Somebody that’s holdin’ my checks
Just to fuck me over and put my finances in debt?
I read a case about Rihanna’s accountant and wondered
How did the bad girl feel when she looked at them numbers?
The type of shit’ll make me flip out
And just kill somethin’, drill somethin’
Get ill and fill ratchets with a lil’ somethin'”
Referring back to Rihanna’s 2015 hit single, “Bitch Better Have My Money” the song was inspired by Rihanna’s accountant got her to make a bad investment and left her $9 million loss, as you can imagine, a lawsuit occurred shortly after and she won the case. Going back to the song, FEAR Kendrick is saying that with all this new found success, he doesn’t know what to do with it because in the music industry, you can easily lose it all.
XXX Stood out to me mostly because of the beginning of the song then the drastic tone change where it cuts back to vocals from Bono and U2. The song goes from a high energy lyric heavy story about his friend called him and asked him advice about how to cope with the murder of his son. Kendrick gives is input by saying, “”I can’t sugar coat the answer for you
This is how I feel—if somebody kill my son
That mean somebody’s gettin’ killed”
Tell me what you do for love, loyalty, and passion of
All the memories collected, moments you could never touch
I wait in front a niggas spot and watch him hit his block
I’ll catch a nigga leavin’ service if that’s all I got
I’ll chip a nigga then throw the blower in his lap
Walk myself to the court like, “Bitch I did that” Before cutting back into a mellow tone, this bit ends by Kendrick saying, “Matter fact I’m bout to speak at this convention, call you back….Alright kids we gonna talk about gun control” Which I feel is a play on 2015 “To Pimp A Butterfly” single, The Black The Berry when calls himself, “the biggest hypocrite of 2015” putting himself in a form of cognitive dissonance where he knows that violence doesn’t solve anything and you shouldn’t hurt another man but that anger and lust for revenge overtakes you can causes you to make irrational decisions.
Finally, DUCKWORTH was the last song that really stuck out to me because of the story behind the song. Top Dawg, head of Top Dawg Entertainment, home to Kendrick, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, Isaiah Rahad and SZA apparently almost killed Kendrick’s father, referred to as “Ducky” in the song and could of set of a totally different outcome in all their lives. The fact that that one decision could have affected so much is incredible and goes back to the theory of everything happens for a reason. To me, and probably alot of other people it’s just a crazy think to think about how that could have played out so differently than it actually did.
In hip hop, I always look for storytelling in artist as well as clever lyrics and beats and this album had it all. Highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t done so all ready.