‘New Kung Fu Kenny!’ is more than just a reoccurring motif, Kendrick Lamar has returned and reinvented himself not only on this new LP but on almost every track on this LP. The DJ tag brings the raw feel of ‘DAMN’ closer to the mixtape vibe that is presented sonically. If ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ was Kendrick reaching for artistic and musical heights in attempt to solidify his status in music then ‘DAMN’ is his attempt to reverse this idea he has been reaching for for so long. On “FEEL” he admits he ‘feels like removing myself no feelings involved’ then in the chorus proceeds to lament that ‘ain’t nobody praying for me’. Most superstars reach a zenith then immediately shun their new position, Prince’s ‘Around The World In A Day’ is a complete 180 from ‘Purple Rain’s success and this phenomenon is no different in Hip-Hop, The Beastie Boys’ ‘Paul’s Boutique’ is knee-jerk reaction to ‘Licensed To Ill’s nation-wide success. The ultimate irony, that leaves Kendrick honestly thinking ‘DAMN’ is that he has reached a pinnacle that he no longer, with all his creativity and planning, can change with effort, ‘DAMN’s stripped down, chaotic, confusing overbearing approach is immediately accepted by fans instantly upon release.
This allows for a sense of Humility, but ‘HUMBLE’ is another play in the paradoxical approach to this new position. Kendrick is greatly conflicted on almost every track on this album and the title and cover art, which ingeniously plays right into meme culture, showcases the melancholy state of mind Kendrick is in when weighing in on the heavy topics each track tackles. ‘DAMN’ finds Kendrick in his most depressed state on an LP fans have ever heard, it’s clear Kendricks savior complex sombers his mood when accessing the multitude of problems his community faces, while simultaneously still learning and exploring new concepts and theories on race and religion himself. “YAH” and “FEAR” are the most honest examples of this, Kendrick embraces a deeper dive into the holy scriptures of the Bible and theory that he is actually one of the lost children of Israel, a concept that subconsciously may be another attempt at ‘removing’ himself from the fame he ‘lusts’.
‘DNA’ also deals with Kendrick’s true bloodline and what attributes are innate to this and the duality of said attributes that do and don’t align with what he perceives as his higher purpose. A divine plan has always been something inherent in Kendrick’s narrative on his past albums but ‘DAMN’s finale track ‘DUCKWORTH’, Kendrick’s actual last name, is his clear interpretation of God’s divine plan in bringing about his life, all seamlessly spit over several 9th Wonder laced beats. The production on ‘DAMN’ is far from mainstream, Kendrick’s fame allows him to take risks sonically and artistically that new artists cant afford. In it’s entirety ‘DAMN’ plays as Lamar’s most honest and open LP, the first cry for help from an artist who spent a majority of his career trying to uplift his people and culture and feels slighted in the turmoil that comes with carrying that cross and the responsibility, right or wrong, that comes with attaining celebrity and fame.