If you don’t have that new Kendrick Lamar album, Damn,rotating in your ears by now, then you are seriously depriving yourself of greatness, because the man is legit on FIRE! Starting with Kung Fu Kenny’s, The Heart Part 4, Lamar tantalizes his audience with skill that lays the foundation for the heat awaiting those who venture forth past the appetizers of his catchy radio singles to the main course meals that Chef Kendrick so expertly cooks up. The vibes and bar-delivery of this project is so genius that it’s crazy!
Now, I’ve been down with K Dot’s sound and style since his self-titled freshman LP, Kendrick Lamar, dropped in ‘09. But, not until this most recent drop on Friday, April 14th of the album, Damn, did he solidify his position amongst my top five greatest emcees of all time. I took the advice and suggestion of a dope friend of mine, Ant (@antduhh on Twitter and Instagram), who woke me up to the fact that K Dot really did give us two albums rolled up into one — a theory he found on Reddit that perfectly explains my personal regard for Damn as a Hip Hop masterpiece. At the end of the album Kendrick literally presses rewind on the whole thing and takes the listener back to some of the very first bars spit on the tape.
Before realizing this is what Kendrick had done, I had so many questions I wanted answered from my original listening of the tape, like: why did K Dot symbolically have to die at the intro of the album rather than the outro? Why would he elevate the idea of fear over the sovereignty of God? Is lust really the key element in a relationship before actual love according to his logic? Why did DJ Kid Capri (kids do your hip hop homework) keep saying, “we are going to put in reverse?” Why would Kendrick list all these attributes of his DNA within the second track? And, lastly, why did he rewind the whole album? Then, I played Damn from the last track to the first, in that order and voila, the whole thing came together at that moment.
K Dot didn’t shy away from his musical genius with this one, because he legit gave us two albums in one! Reversing the order of the albums track-list gives you a whole new feel of this life vs. death theme. Played from end to beginning, Kung Fu Kenny loses his life at the end of the track, Blood, instead of actually telling us a story of how the “greatest rapper,” came to be; which is the storyline when played in order from the first to the last track. Even when the track-list is flipped, as I pointed out earlier,Damn becomes an unexplainably, different vibe. The feeling it gives when played backwards is totally purposeful from the artist because the project, as a whole, makes so much more sense. So, if any of my former questions came to your mind as well, or if you’re just curious to test the theory, PUT THAT THANG IN REVERSE!
Each track, played in order or reversed, flows in a sequence with one another, so I do recommend a thorough play-through with absolutely NO SKIPPING in order to reveal the whole plot backwards and forwards. Usually, I have at least a few choice favorites by the time I’ve played an album as much as I have this one. But, with this baby I just have a bunch of songs that equally outdo each other, vying for the top spot and each deserving of it. I’ll take this dilemma from an album ANY day: every song bangs as much as the one before it –or after it, depending on which way you’re spinning the tracks!
For example, the song, Fear, plays heaviest on my emotions, with K Dot lyrically bringing tangible feelings to life as he relays the terror he felt at three different instances in his life, in order to shed light on the reverent fear that we should have for God. Quoting the Biblical book of Deuteronomy, Kendrick uses scripture to educate his audience on the historical relationship of God and His chosen people, the Israelites. The lyrics touch a whole different aspect when played backwards, giving us a very dark and dreadful vibe indicative of what life is like without God’s enlightenment upon us. And, then, the completion of the Bible verse at the end gives us back hope, as well as a proper understanding of the context in which God uses the word, fear. There’s no way to deny specialness of this track and the knowledge it sheds.
Another banger for me is the track Humble. The emcee also dropped the accompanying music video for the single before the album dropped, and rightfully so. As the chorus sings, “sit down, be humble,” he gives us one of the best hip hop visuals of the year pretty early in 2017 and, arguably, in the last five years or so, clearly instructing the D-League wrappers in the game to take a seat, sit ALL THE WAY BACK, and watch and learn how to impact-fully shift culture, rather than just profiting off of its pimping and demise. You have to be able to capture your audience and hold them captive in order to reach them, and Kendrick knows how to tell our culture’s story so well, that his voice can’t be muffled.
The art of lyrical storytelling within rap music took huge blows when Hip Hop griots like Big L, Pun, and Biggie Smalls, three of the most dynamic storytelling rap personas of Hip Hop history, passed away at the peak of their careers, leaving a void that, until now, has only been able to be filled by listening to old-school classics and reminiscing over the dying craft of verses and songs that featured contextual order and extraordinary verbal acumen. Since the gradual ebbing away from this quality of storytelling lyricism, the game hasn’t seen any young, emerging emcees consistently deliver a full project LP worthy of being mentioned as a contender with the classics. Yet, Kendrick’s witty and concise wordplay is like the rebirth of a lyrical technique that had almost flatlined on the turntables.
Over unique and compelling samples and poly-rhythms, K Dot seems honed-in and hell-bent on giving us what is rapidly becoming a lost art among new-aged, gimmicky, wanna-be’s that we’ll refer to here as “wrappers”:
This mastering of the craft isn’t an overnight success type of deal for Kendrick, either. His growth through the grind can be witnessed from his studio album, Good Kid Mad City (GKMC). The metamorphosis he undergoes from album to album is like watching a caterpillar emerging from the cocoon, bit by bit, amazed at the transformation. I’m sure I’m not the only one who knew there was certainly something special about this black boy from Compton, CA.
Staying true to himself, K Dot’s elevation each track on Damn creates a vibe for the listener that can only be experience by hearing the music firsthand. At some point, on every one of his tracks, his unique knack for riding diverse beats, and sick wordplay laid precisely over the crazy rhythm switch-ups, will have you like “DAYUM!” Against the monotonous backdrop of the majority of Generation X artists, Kendrick stands out like a rainbow amongst clouds, colorfully giving us the lyrics AND head-knockin’ beats together,
On GKMC, the young artist verbally took us along shotgun, like a homie, on a ride through his life — unforgettable memories of his Los Angeles upbringing, filled with idiosyncratic, yet all-too-familiar images of what life among the forgotten can feel like. Each track from the emcee seems to be a steady continuum– like chapters within a book; each album its own novel within a series of his life’s tale which brings us, presently, back to the topic at hand: his 9th album, Damn. In the same manner of the crazed Harry Potter phenomenon I can remember from some of my childhood peers, we, fans of Kendrick, are sincerely left at the end of each of his productions with a fan-induced desire for the next installment – the next magical saga of this #BlackBoyFly.
Overall Kendrick Lamar has given his fans an epic, elevated,mash-up of the Section 80 Project, GKMC, and the Untitled album all in one. Each track is listed below 70 on the Billboard Top 100 List. Also, Damn is the #1 selling LP of 2017 so far, and I’ll even add that it should go down as the best Hip Hop albums of the year, hands down. So, thank you, Kung Fu Kenny, for bringing the culture back to something real for 2017.
& Yes this is sincerely a no skip album win for the culture in the first quarter of 2017.
So we at #TunnelVSN see you K Dot keep flying for all the black boys elevating with you.
TunnelVSN X Out