Since the one-two punch of buzz track “The Heart Part 4” and “HUMBLE.” the clamor for new Kendrick Lamar has reached a fever pitch. Now DAMN. has finally arrived and it appears that it was worth every ounce of hype bestowed upon it. The album, which departs from jazzy, complex hip-hop that made his previous effort To Pimp A Butterfly a standout, is a solid one that finds Kendrick pushing forward with his lyricism at front and center and with little outside interference this time around (only Rihanna, U2 and Zacari made the cut as featured artists). Though Cornrow Kenny mostly stands alone, however, he makes every moment on DAMN. count.
The set starts strong with intro “BLOOD.” and the Fox News-sampling “DNA.,” a fiery dismissal of conservative concerns about his art, and keeps rolling from there, with each introspective track further delving into his psyche. The Rihanna-featuring “LOYALTY.” brings with it an interesting conversation about love of both the romantic and platonic variety, while Rihanna proves that she’s got barz for real while keeping up with K. Dot. Then there’s “LUST.,” the dreamy BADBADNOTGOOD-produced track (which features a squeaky-voiced Kaytranada making an uncredited cameo) which offers up a rumination on desire. Most surprising, though, is the fact that “XXX.,” his collaboration with U2, actually works. Many threw a sideways glance when the group’s name popped up in the album’s credits, but Kendrick and TDE’s in-house producer Sounwave (along with Mike WiLL Made-It and DJ Dahi) make it all somehow work, with Bono‘s vocal adding a perfect counterpoint to K. Dot’s rhymes. Another standout is “FEAR.,” which finds Kendrick dealing with inner turmoil and demons over a contemplative beat provided by The Alchemist.
All in all, DAMN. is another complex and engaging piece of art from the Compton rapper (and, if fan theories are correct, could be one of two releases that Kendrick drops this weekend). Give the full album a spin via Spotify below and pick it up from your favorite digital retailer now.