I wonder how many people in the world enjoyed both the pilot episode of Saekano season 2 and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. today–definitely not very many. Anyways, without trying to analyze the album, I wanted to participate in the highly anticipated (in the hip hop world) release of DAMN.. It got leaked a few hours early, and I got a chance to listen to it twice now.
I realized that in order to review/analyze an album critically, it requires genre-specific knowledge as well as a head space in that genre. While I have decent knowledge about music production, hip hop, as well as the history of Kendrick’s releases, ever since I delved deep into the anime culture, I’ve become somewhat distant from hip hop records. I still listen to all the major releases, but the homogeneous sound of all the recent trap-influenced hip hop records have become painfully obvious in contrast to the generally upbeat–and at the very least–interesting Japanese anime/pop music. So as a DJ, I usually skip through tracks, spending about 10 minutes on an album to see any tracks stick out.
Having said that, and in credit to Kendrick, the album engaged me from start to finish: at no point in the album did I want to skip to the next track. Compared to the narrative focused gkmc and the musically experimental/ambitious TPAB, DAMN. is Kendrick’s most commercially appealing album to date. And this isn’t a bad thing, DAMN. has an incredible balance of accessibility while still showing the creative and lyrical side of Kendrick. Sonically, the album’s production is undeniably of the modern, trap 808 style of hip hop, but the groove and the instrumentation is quite eclectic. Similarly, even though the flow of rapping is of the typical trap flow, Kendrick’s lyrics are uncompromised and they’re still the narrative lyrics that we expect from Kendrick.
That’s my brief impression of the album. It seems that there are intricate themes and references, but I’m not there yet. I’m curious as to what Anthony Fantano, Big Quint, and Pitchfork will have to say about the album.
Image is the cover art for DAMN.