If you're a hip-hop fan, then you've no doubt heard the lead single "Humble (fun fact: that track was originally intended for Gucci Mane)," a trap record produced by Mike Will Made It. That's just the beginning of the All Star producer credits, however, as 9th Wonder, Alchemist, and DJ Dahi (I Don't Fuck With You by Big Sean) earn listings as well.
The album switches back and forth between rugged and smooth, with both Kendrick's delivery and the production making the listener swap between hard 90's era head knocking and calm and passive swaying in a smoke filled haze. The content is still edgy, however, no matter which track you're on, and we're treated to even more insight into Kendrick's mind and past. Although there are many differences between this and previous albums, DAMN. is yet another journey into what has made K. Dot arguably the greatest rapper of this generation. He expresses himself and opens up on damn near every track, so much so that it's hard to pinpoint just one.
One thing that is easy to state is that Kendrick won't be pigeonholed, enlisting pop mainstay Rihanna on the pleasantly polished "LOYALTY." It's radio friendly, as expected, but no holds are barred with lyrics like "You can tell your nigga he can meet me outside/ you can babysit him when I leave him outside." It's obvious that this isn't the same Kendrick that was getting jumped two albums ago. He's brash, he's raw, and he's unapologetic.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, he steps away from what you would expect and has U2 on "XXX." The track starts off by lulling you into a false sense of comfort for almost two dozen seconds before DJ Kid Capri shakes you awake with his intro (he's all over this album, but not in the annoying way that DJ Clue was back in the late 90's, early 00's) and then it's off to the races. Two and a half minutes in and Bono is rocking you back to Earth safely. The lyrics, still potent, are delivered in an almost sing-song downtempo jazz vibe.
Speaking of song breaks, that happens often on this album and I love it. There are 14 tracks, but with mid-song changes in the production, it almost feels like there are 20 songs. The breaks are sudden usually, coming directly before or after a hook or chorus, but they seem so fitting. If you haven't listened to this album in its entirety yet, don't expect to sit still for too long whilst listening.
My absolute favorite part of this instant classic is that Mr. Duckworth can have the most blazing lyrics ever, all laid like crunchy nougat over the smooth caramel that is a track like "FEAR." The Alchemist produced this gem and to hear the instrumental, you'd think it was an old D'Angelo spot or late 70's R&B song. Instead it's Kendrick Lamar, yet again spilling horrible truths from his past, but making it stick with intent and making you desire to hear more and more.
Each track title is capitalized on the track listing, and rightfully so. Each title is a quick glimpse into the content of the song and each one deserves to be punctuated exactly as it is with a period after it because each and every song is a statement. The only song that is arguably misnomered is the very last one, "DUCKWORTH." This tells the story of the potential disaster that could have been, the storyteller letting us know how close we were to never having a Kendrick Lamar signed to Top Dawg Entertainment. I won't give too much info, but I will say that once you "get it," the reaction should have you go...DAMN. Yes, this album is oh so appropriately named.
Every song on this album has charted on the Billboard 100 and it's the largest album debut for 2017 and it's obvious why. We have the Big Seans and the Drakes, but no one's skill has been as anticipated as Kendrick's. He gives us the real, the raw, the introspective, the smooth, and the complete. He's as classy and as skilled as many of his forebear's storytellers. This is as complete of an album as you can possibly hope to gain in this generation. I never thought I would say this about any album after 2005, but I literally have no complaints about DAMN. Do yourself a favor and listen, truly listen, and enjoy every song on this album. You're welcome in advance.