Kendrick Lamar releases third studio album ‘Damn’ [Review]

Kendrick Lamar released his third studio album ‘Damn’ on Friday and it’s amazing. Check out our review and listen to our favourite tracks so far.

Kendrick Lamar unveiled his third studio album ‘Damn’ to the world on Friday and it has the feeling of an instant classic. The rapper from Compton is one of the best in the game right now and this record demonstrates that and then some.

The album is made up of fourteen tracks which allow Kendrick to demonstrate his versatility whilst also laying down some hard hitting verses that stay true to his routes. After the more experimental ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ Lamar has returned to a more familiar sound although it’s still very much developed from his debut ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city.’

The intro “Blood” sets the tone for the rest of the album as Kendrick tells the story of a blind lady struggling to find her way along the sidewalk yet when Lamar offers her help she turns around and shoots him. This twists and turns that the music takes on this album are as unexpected as the gunshot on the opening track.

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The intro leads into “DNA.” which gives listeners their first taste of the harder hitting Kendrick on ‘Damn.’ For almost two minutes Kendrick goes off on a beat before it switches to a more bass heavy sound that Lamar somehow gets more aggressive on as he almost screams out the bars.

After the lyrical onslaught at the end of “DNA.” Kendrick slows it down for the more relaxed “YAH.” which has a sleepy beat and vocals from the rapper.  A similar relaxed vibe is felt on tracks “Pride” and “LUST.” as Kendrick also approaches these tracks with a softer touch.

The dulcet tones on “YAH.” have little time to fade before one of the highlights of the album, “Element” begins. This is the most musically complete track on the record as Lamar’s lyrics and vocals are on point while the instrumental aspect of the song is varied and exciting. It opens on one of the record’s most meaningful lines too as Kendrick raps:

“I’m willing to die for this s***… might take a life for this s***.”

A beat comes in and Kendrick raps flawlessly over it before the chorus changes the song up nicely. A light piano accompanies Lamar as he sings the simple but impressive chorus – one of my favourite parts of the album.

The second verse follows the same pattern but after the next chorus the beat is drawn back which gives more prominence to Lamar as he goes on the offensive with his bars. All of this makes for an amazing track which needs heard several times in order to fully appreciate it.

“FEEL.” almost feels like a freestyle track ask Kendrick goes off on a beat for three minutes with very little change in the music at any point. “FEAR.” has a similar feeling but it’s double the length at a whopping 7.40 minutes. It also has a trippy rewound section which was decoded by Pigeons and Planes to reveal a secret message.

“LOYALTY.” is the most mainstream track on the album which is emphasised by the feature from Rihanna. However what is interesting about Rihanna’s feature is that it focuses less on her vocal talent and more on her delivery of some bars herself.

The other two features on the album come from Irish rock band U2 and L.A. based singer-songwriter Zacari. The biggest surprise is that “XXX.” which features U2 is not a cheesy affair and that it actually offers some of the harder hitting verses on the album. The instrumental aspects of the track are weird and wonderful too as they from police sirens to raw violins before Bono lays down some vocals over a more laid back beat.

“LOVE” featuring Zacari and “GOD.” are tracks where Kendrick demonstrates that he can produce a solid vocally based track as well. It’s also about as close as Kendrick Lamar will ever come to sounding like Drake – not that that’s a bad thing. The vocals on “GOD.” are especially good and the track itself will leave you with a huge smile on your face.

The album’s final track “DUCKWORTH.” (Kendrick’s real last name) tells the story of a young man named Anthony and the struggles he dealt with in his upbringing. This Anthony is the same Anthony who now runs Top Dawg Entertainment – the label that Lamar is signed to. There is also speculation that the track talks about the aforementioned Anthony’s interaction with Lamar’s father in the past although Kendrick has not confirmed this yet.

The only thing missing from this album is “The Heart Part IV” which is the track that Kendrick released two weeks prior to the release of the record. The other single released before the album, “HUMBLE.” features so it’s a surprise not to see this track as well. Otherwise this is an amazing album that only gets better with every listen.

You can purchase Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Damn’ here.