Kendrick Lamar Brings The Damn. Tour to the Damn Xcel Energy Center Saturday, August 19th
I do not, nor will I ever, apologize for the titular pun above. My words; my space on the Internet; my rules. I enjoy language, Yirgacheffe coffee, and music–all kinds of music. Music is the most distilled artistic medium, in my opinion, and just may be the simplest of interactions known to man. When an artist can reach a hand out to anyone and find a connection, that’s some good-ass art, right there (to paraphrase the late Eazy-E).
What will often grab my attention, besides a solid beat or impressive hook, is an MC’s command of language. I value cleverness in language, an appreciation of its histories and an understanding of its functions. A cat could program a Casio melody and just stomp his foot if his rhymes are sharp and his flow is seamless. I like what I like, and when I like something I will laud its qualities.
So, even though he put it out back in April, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. (Top Dawg, 2017) is my favorite major release so far this year, and it is fucking dope.
Allow me to laud said dopeness.
Kendrick Lamar’s latest release, DAMN., is a perfect example of the kind of artistry to which I’m attracted. Lamar isn’t one to rest in general, so he damn sure isn’t inclined to suffer laurels. While Good Kid, MADD City (Top Dawg, 2013) is his most consistent release in terms of narrative, and To Pimp A Butterfly (Top Dawg, 2015) saw him not just flexing his rhymes and production values but damn-near inventing a straight-up martial art, DAMN. keeps things close to the chest. Actually, I’d contend that DAMN. is Lamar’s most personal album since Section.80 (Top Dawg, 2011).
Self-realization is probably the most prevalent theme in Kendrick Lamar’s work. Questioning the world is provocative for an audience; but for an artist, the real questions come from inside. Some questions have clear answers (“HUMBLE.”, “LOVE.”), some questions require serious thought (“XXX. (ft. U2)”, “GOD.”), while some questions only exist to drive us toward more questions (“FEEL.”, “YAH.”). Each track, more or less, is a question disguised as a statement, dressed in all capital letters with a confident period closing it off from the rest of the world in solidarity. Lamar knows his art is at its best when he’s his own inspiration.
Which isn’t to say I think Kendrick Lamar is a singular genius. No. He’s worked with some hot producers because he wanted that heat on his track. Dre and Timbaland have famously provided substantial fuel for his fire. What separates Lamar from his peers is his craftsmanship in building the fire. He knows just which logs to use for support and the proper kindling to plant for the fullest flames, and he keeps the air moving through that mother fucker like a bellows. No matter who’s laying the beats or sharing a verse, Lamar’s music is his and his alone.
Despite the fractured neurosis throughout, Lamar does not mince words or thoughts on DAMN. Even the cover art is indicative of the album’s main idea:
“I feel like the whole world want me to pray for ’em/But who the fuck prayin’ for me?”
Fortune has treated Lamar well, but now that his butt is in the throne he seems to struggle with his sovereignty. Life is not meant to be lived in anticipation. Make yourself in your own image; but be ready to defend that image from a corrosive world that only wants to see your soft belly so it can stick in a knife, holding your blood and guts hostage under their own gravity.
Or, in other words ‘Damn…’
Check out Lamar’s video for “DNA.” featuring Academy Award-nominee Don Cheadle if you’re still not convinced.
And if you’re one of those ‘pictures or it didn’t happen’ type of folks, Lamar will be bringing The Damn. Tour to St. Paul’s Xcel Center Saturday, August 19th, with support from YG & D.R.A.M. Tickets are going quickly, so be punctual, sit down, and be humble.
Adam Johnson lives in Minneapolis with his wife, cats, and guitars.