Music For the Sole! Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
There really isn't much else to say. Kendrick just blew the rap game up with another stellar project. The album is so layered with hidden features and meanings that I don't even feel like I could do this review proper justice. For me this album means a lot more.
It's the crowning release for rap's true king.
Can we really claim that anyone, past or present, can come close or even compare to Kendrick's consistency and ability over the space of 7 years? Admittedly, I didn't grow up listening to Biggie and Pac, and I missed the Golden Age of Rakim, LL and the like by a few years. Big L was never my thing, neither Jay, Eminem too inconsistent for me to bless him with any big tags. The only man who ever came close for me was Yeezy, with a stellar back log of production and raps, but even then is later releases are marred in his own ego.
So where does that leave us in regards to Kendrick? Is it too early to bless him with the tag of the greatest? Let me try and stake a claim as to why he deserves this title.
For one, he has three instant classic albums under is belt before he's even turned 30. Good Kid MAAD city, To Pimp a Butterfly, and now DAMN. That's disregarding his stellar but underrated first album, Section 80, his selection of B sides and off shoots from the TPAB recordings as Untitled Unmastered, and even one of his earlier mixtapes, Overly Dedicated, that includes the blueprints for what we now know. Absolutely no one comes close in Quantity and Quality of releases over a short period of time. For reference, NAS put out Illmatic when he was 19, but it took 7 years for him to really follow it up with Stillmatic, but that was only to maintain relevance after a number of subpar releases. By the time Kanye was 30 he'd released College Dropout and Late Registration but was still on his way to the top of rap's pantheon. It wasn't till late 2007 that the sales battle between 50 cent propelled Yeezy and his newly found formula of anthemic rap to the music mainstream. Jay Z was looking at an early retirement, Eminem was on the meds and doing his brand of weirdo pop rap. Even Pac and Biggie have an unfair rose tint to them because of the infatuation with the short time in the spotlight. Biggie had one good album. Pac had a literary of over saturated albums, and only one of them really carries any substance to it.
Even if we go off features, Kendrick has arguably the most referenced and widely known guest feature of the last decade on Big Sean's 'Control', and that track wasn't even released. Regardless of the tracks he's on, Kendrick kills it every time. I implore anyone reading this to find a feature that's sub-par, or not up to scratch compared to anyone else on track. Every single time Kendrick makes the track his own. Fuckin' Problem, Control, Bad Blood with Taylor Swift and all of his features with Black Hippy etc.etc. Every single time Kendrick makes it his own. The only artist that comes close is Andre 3000, but even he has off days (Fonzworth Bentley's 'Everybody' anyone?)
Has anyone had the crossover success Kendrick has had?. Not only does he have the musically rich conceptual projects, but he has the commercial success too. Something that many rappers find hard to strike the balance (only a small sect of rappers, maybe Kendrick, Kanye and 3 Stacks are constantly applauded for their musicality, and commercial viability). Currently, all of Kendrick's DAMN. is dominating streaming charts, usurping Drake and Ed Sheeran's dominance. 'Humble', the lead single, is a clever diss on trap rapping mainstream craze dominated by Rap's younger contingent, and yet Kendrick does it better than them all. If we go back to TPAB, 'King Kunta', 'Blacker the Berry', 'I' and the BLM movement anthem 'Alright' all enjoyed huge success whilst also retaining the serious undertones of TPAB about black lives, merciless killing, police brutality and respecting yourself over others. Even earlier releases like Swimming Pools (Drank) and ADHD were international hits.
In raps current landscape, it's not hard to argue Kenny is top dog. But for me, and the main argument I believe in, is post TPAB is it even fair to compare Kendrick to any of his peers in rap?
Outside of our current obsession with urban lifestyles, and the infatuation with black culture, Kendrick's work is completely separate to the stagnant, easy and predictable nature of rap's current mc's. His ability to switch up his flow, the hooks he creates for songs, the musicians and producers that work with him to attain the conceptual sound of each album, barely anyone in rap or music in general comes close in ability.
For me Kendrick is our generation's Jordan, Bowie, Jackson and more. He's revolutionized the game in so many ways that his effect can not go un-noticed any more. Long reign King Kenny.