Kendrick Lamar has become the most important MC in America over the past few years, and the reasons are apparent on even a glancing listen to his impressive catalog—his verbal dexterity, his capacity for reflection, his ability to fuse black music’s past with its next generation. On Friday he released DAMN., his staggering fourth album, which brings together tightly wound beats, allusion-rich lyrics, political and personal reckonings—and, hey, even Bono!—to create a richly omnivorous album. It feels as vital when its protagonist is musing on unconditional love as it does when he’s railing on now-President Donald Trump.
Lamar’s steadily increasing success over the past few years has culminated in some of the spoils only enjoyed by those at the very top of the pops—Grammy Awards and nominations in the cross-genre “big five” categories, collaborations with superstars like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, big-money headline stints at festivals like the annual desert bacchanalia Coachella, where he’ll headline the Sunday-night installment of this and next weekend’s festival. But DAMN. shows that if nothing else, fame has driven him even further inside his own head, making him almost obsessively reflective about his place in the world—as a pop star, as a black man, as an American in 2017.
DAMN. opens with the shimmering, ominous “BLOOD.,” a free-verse parable about a meeting with a blind woman that ends with a bang—a gunshot that cuts the narrator’s life short. That fades into a prismatic sample of Fox News commentators complaining about the lyrics to his breakout single “Alright,” which he performed while perched atop a graffiti-covered police cruiser during the 2015 BET Awards. “Oh please, ugh. I don’t like it,” Fox commentator Kimberly Guilfoyle says. That leads into the harsh beats and boastful verses of the invigorating “DNA.,” which flips clichés about black culture on its head while also slamming hip-hop’s most prominent critics—like Geraldo Rivera, who said, “This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to African Americans than racism in recent years.” Lamar and Atlanta hip-hop mastermind Mike WiLL Made-It use the sample to great effect, dropping Rivera’s voice into part of a verbal melee with Lamar and an ominous-sounding countdown.
Know whats next, it's seems the award show Kendrick lost to Macklamore, his game has tightened each album he release and each performance he set's the stage on fire. Whats next?