Music

Kendrick Lamar continues to show the rap world how it’s done

Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” and “untitled unmastered.” albums addressed issues like police brutality and racial tensions in America. Lamar then dropped two singles and a music video for “HUMBLE.” a couple of weeks ago, foreshadowing what his new album might entail. His latest album, “DAMN.” released Friday, and continues to be political, even adding some religious themes. The 14-song track list flows together well. Each song transitions to the other, and if listened to separately or in an altered order, the effect will be lost.

Lamar is one of the best rappers in the industry right now. His latest album is a puzzling masterpiece full of smart decisions and surprises every time you listen. Lamar is definitely at the peak of his career, and now everyone is anxiously awaiting his next move. There have already been theories from fans that Lamar is going to release another surprise album like he did with “untitled unmastered.”

“DAMN.” wouldn’t really be a Kendrick Lamar album without a tasteful critique on national issues. The first song of the album, “BLOOD.” addresses the disapproval the rapper faced from Fox News for his controversial lyrics and 2015 BET Awards’ performance of his song, “Alright.” He responded to criticism with lines like “Fox News wanna use my name for percentage,” and used snippets of the Fox News correspondents throughout the album that claimed hip-hop was more dangerous than racism for young black people in the United States. “DAMN.” showcases Lamar’s best talents — beautiful telling verses accompanied by head-bopping beats.

Lamar spent the last year featured on songs with Maroon 5 and The Weeknd, and he brought new and old faces to “DAMN.” The most surprising collaboration he had on the album was with U2. “XXX.” is a thought-provoking song that focuses on gang violence, war and oppression of black lives. It was certainly outside of U2’s area of expertise, but the song was executed well and makes a powerful statement. Other artists included on the album are Rihanna and Zacari, a lesser known singer-songwriter with a growing following on SoundCloud. Even with these featured artists, Lamar’s voice and musicality remained strong.

Adding to his political commentary, the rapper got personal. “FEAR.” is almost eight minutes long but describes his own fear and the powerful effect it has on him and others. He raps that he’ll “probably die” in certain scenarios like “from one of these bats and blue badges” or “from panic or being too lax.” On the last song of the album, “DUCKWORTH.,” he tells the personal story of how the private co-founder of Top Dog Entertainment, Anthony “Top Dog” Tiffith almost killed Lamar’s father in a robbery at KFC. Ending the entire album with “DUCKWORTH.” shows how Lamar’s career has come full circle, and it has people wanting more.

Compared to recently released music from hip-hop artists like Drake, Kendrick Lamar dominates. “HUMBLE.” debuted at number one on the Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and number two on the Hot 100 chart. “DAMN.” seems to be overshadowing Drake’s “More Life” with all of the media attention and high praise from fans and the music industry. Lamar’s unapologetic lyrics and ability to beautifully articulate daunting issues this country faces is not a talent that many artists in the industry have. Sure, he might not have trap beats like Future or trendy quotes like Drake, but he is fearless and full of heart.

If you haven’t already listened to “DAMN.,” it is a spectacular 55-minute-long story worth a listen.

Christine Chung is a senior communication and rhetorical studies major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached at chchun02@syr.edu.

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