Label: Top Dawg Entertainment
Released: April 14
Kenny’s third studio release (or his fourth, depending on who you ask) shows off the most important thing an artist can give to their fans—growth. Everything Lamar has attempted in his near-mythical run of a career to date, he perfected on Damn. The radio singles have staying power, there are no skips, and it’s digestible. It's as ambitious as good kid, M.A.A.D. city and To Pimp A Butterfly, yet breezes by, in many ways Lamar's most accessible album to date. But still, my favorite thing about the album are the random Kid Capri drops, which make it feel like I’m listening to a ’90s DJ mixtape and take me back to the time I fell in love with this sport called rap music.
Kendrick spits with purpose and vigor, like he’s the king of this shit. And, well, he is—this record is as close to incontrovertible proof as you get. Damn was so good it had people looking for meaning everywhere, because nothing could be too farfetched for Lamar to have hidden in this record. Conspiracy theorists started drumming up the possibility of a “good side,” because of the way his head was positioned on the album’s artwork, or maybe you're supposed to listen to the whole thing backwards. When an album is this immaculately constructed, anything sounds plausible. Perhaps the biggest compliment to the album is that it's able to pull off a U2 collab in 2017 (on lowkey the best song on the album). After they forced that album upon us in 2014, that is no small feat.
Damn is good kid, M.A.A.D. city’s true sequel, reworking the religious undertones and stories of his upbringing in Compton of his major label debut, but Damn is more polished, more mature, more intricate, more perfected. The ideas are essentially the same, but this time around he’s a successful superstar rapper dealing with things he’s never had to deal with before, and a bird's eye view of the life he's left behind. Lamar showed true vulnerability on this album and in turn opened his chakras and wiped the crust out of our third eyes, a true genius at work. Damn set a very high bar, and it's convinced us that, against all odds, Kendrick has it in him to raise that bar again and again. —Angel Diaz