untitled unmastered and To Pimp a Butterfly kept me hanging from a thread until Kendrick dropped "The Heart Part 4" but I knew K.Dot was really about to do something when I heard "HUMBLE." It was on repeat for the past week especially, and absolutely nothing is going to change now that the full album is out.
While I'm no music expert, I know a good project when I hear it, so here is my song-by-song review of the project who gave its title as my first reaction: DAMN.
"BLOOD." was a great intro track to this album. My first thought after hearing the audio from the news clip at the end was reduced to a laugh at hearing how white folks love sharing their two cents on issues facing Black people specifically.
This song just...goes hard. Like there really is no other way to put it. Watch that video of Jay Z listening to "Lucifer" for the first time and that sums up my reaction. The beat switch around the 2-minute mark is up definitely up there with Frank Ocean's "Nights" and serves as a transition to another minute of Kendrick's shit talking. During the transition, he includes another snippet of unsolicited commentary on the effects of rap music on Black youth, showing that critics of TPAB are extremely mistaken if they thought Kendrick was letting up on being a voice for Black people anytime soon.
'YAH.' is a really smooth song that Kendrick uses as an opportunity to show his humanity. "Today is the day I follow my intuition" was the one line that really hit me on this track. Another line that I didn't feel any particular way about but the "Black millennial who majors in Journalism at an HBCU" part of me knows that the "I'm a Israelite, don't call me Black no more/That word is only a color, it ain't facts no more" line is going to cause some issues in the media pretty soon.
I'm listening to 'ELEMENT." as I'm writing this, and I'll just say it's dope...but I don't feel any way about this song. One of my favorite lines, though, is "I don't do it for the 'gram, I do it for Compton."
This song reminds me a little bit of "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst." Rap songs where the artist drops line after line of transparent and unfiltered thoughts is really therapeutic as a listener. The repeated line "Ain't nobody prayin' for me" adds that somber vibe to the song and allows Kendrick to exemplify his storytelling throughout the rest of the track.
First of all let's talk about how my girl Robyn is on this song and rapping *Inner Navy comes out*. For this to be Kendrick and Rihanna's first collaboration, it definitely did not disappoint. LOYALTY. is a lil bop that's pretty straightforward in reminding us to stay cognizant of those we surround ourselves with.
The opening line "Love's gonna get you killed/ But pride's gonna be the death of you and you and me," and the entire song for that matter, came as a reality check for me and I'm sure others would agree. What really stuck with me was "I don't trust people beyond they surface, world/ I don't love people enough to put my faith in man/ I put my faith in these lyrics hoping I make amend." It reminds me of a bible verse I've had in my mind the past few days: "Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on Earth" (Colossians 3:2). The main thing I get from both lines is that putting all your faith in another human being is probably the fastest way to get disappointed.
By now I'm pretty sure everyone has heard HUMBLE. and if not...wyd? Other than it being a dope song, "HUMBLE." definitely proves that Kendrick is still at the top of his game. I'd say it's the most solid track instrumentally and is the most fun to rap along to. The cinematography in the music video was really well done, from the reference to da Vinci's "Last Supper" or the split screen during the "I am so f-cking sick and tired of the photoshop" line.
The beat of this song immediately reminded me of Outkast's "Ms. Jackson" but the message hit on the type of lifestyles we see in mainstream music and media: "Lately, I feel like I've been lusting over the fame/ Lately, we lust on the same routine of shame."
If you ever told me that a Kendrick Lamar song would make me want to fall in love, I would actually laugh in your face, but "LOVE." surprised me by doing just that. This is something that I've never heard from Kendrick, a sentiment that was reiterated by Zacari, the Los Angeles artist who is featured on the track, in an interview with Pitchfork:
One thing I can say is I think it’s definitely a whole new genre. It’s a sound that I've been working on a lot with Teddy Walton. We found this certain sound and I think that’s what Kendrick saw when he heard it. This song, this beat, the singing, the rapping—I don’t think it can really be compared to another song, as far as that goes. You can’t say, like, “Oh, this song kind of reminds of this.” It’s a whole new wave. And it’s all about love. It’s all about the title.
"America/ God bless you if it's good to you" let me know that "XXX." was going to be another track where Kendrick apologetically comes at America's neck. This song sums up a lot of what Black people have been thinking in the past few months of post-Obama America. However, Kendrick did surprise me with the line "Ain't no black power when your baby killed by a coward" which fits into the Black-on-Black crime conversation.
"FEAR." continues the religious messages that Kendrick includes throughout the entire project. This song is an honest conversation between a man and God about the reality of life. Kendrick shows that despite his fame and success, he is still a Black man in America. The lines that hit me the most were "I'll prolly die anonymous, I'll prolly die with promises" and "I'll prolly die from these bats and blue badges."
I personally like the sound of this track overall. The more I listen to it and hear the line "Don't judge me" and then "This what God feel like, yeah/ Laughing to the bank like, 'Ah ha'" makes me think about how a lot of people's main goal is to make money and be successful, but then put that above things that truly matter. This song seems like the person is willingly pursuing material things over God but then tries to ask God not to judge them for it at the end of the day.
This track expands on Kendrick's "Me vs. the world" attitude, which he later realizes is actually "Me vs. me." This song reminds me of "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst" and serves as a good closing track for the album. I like that he ended with a track that includes self-reflection and the story of Anthony, Top Dawg, and Ducky, Kendrick's Father.
Click here to stream DAMN.