With the recent release of the collector’s edition of DAMN which plays in reverse, it’s time to further shed some light on Kendrick Lamar and give insight into DAMN with a little help from my friend and fellow music buff ZiggyStarscream.
DAMN. – The Fourth Installment in the Film Narrative of Kendrick Lamar:
There are not many artists who have created a sense of mythos in the age of social media. With accessibility at an all-time high, the sense of mystery behind the art has started to fade. Music specifically had felt the impact of the internet far before the social media comet reshaped human interaction forever. The singles were the parts to sell a record. Like tinning for gold in a river hoping for a single damn sparkle of gold What happens if we change. We make the album to MAKE AN ALBUM. Think about the last time an album really mattered. A whole album that really grabbed hold of a people’s heart and never let go. Not the one song or a transition or two. Kendrick Lamar, with each release, reminds us that those albums can really exist.
The autobiographical and reflective nature of each album builds on this character that lives in the world between his words. He tells his story as him and connects each album with some extended metaphors and while sonically are something unique, are tied together through a sense of familiarity as it is a new episode in the tale of the good kid in the mad city. To say that Kendrick Lamar’s word choice is precise would be an understatement. His wordplay is polished, deliberate and often cold. With a clear sense of consciousness of his situation and who and what he represents, Kendrick’s releases always tell his tale. And we live in the days of social media so often looking back at the past with a sense of longing. Through the screen, there is some connection to these celebrities because we have a window to their world. And then there is Kendrick, who is often dark online. He knows what he now represents. Kendrick uses these complete albums to present complete ideas to be discussed and debated. He knows how easy it is to write 140 characters and watch everything fall apart as a result. Kendrick maintains his sense of mystery through the scarce social media presence. But the funny thing about the nostalgia we all look for, Kendrick shows us who he is and what he thinks and feels in the most classic of locations; in his music.
The cinematic nature of his music starts with the hip-hop era of Good Kid M.a.a.d City to the cultural opus To Pimp A Butterfly and finally to the blistering anger that oozes off of DAMN. But the theme of DAMN is one that places it in such a unique light, Is it wickedness or weakness? You decide. The album stresses that one small action can change everything, better or worse. The parallels across several contradictory song titles show that it can go one of two ways. “DUCKWORTH” rewinds all the way to the beginning of “BLOOD” that ends in a gunshot. A single song out of context has some weight from this album But when that song rests along with the other keys to hold it all together, the album takes shape into something grander. The life lead by wickedness or a life lead by weakness; you decide. With forwards and backward as different ways to listen to this album, ideas start to blur and feeling from the songs themselves become less vibrant as the greater scope of the album takes root in the forefront of the listener’s mind. This album screams of Kendrick’s affirmation as a leader, but while doing it also shows his uncertainty in accepting the role he now sits in.
Is it wickedness or weakness? You decide… And just like a good film franchise, we are left wondering but anxiously anticipating the next installment. So for my album of the year? I don’t even think there is a contest.