Kendrick Lamar’s excellent new album Damn has been with us for a week now, even longer if you’re someone who knows someone (i.e. James, LeBron.) With a week of listening under my belt, I felt it’d be a good time to take stock of what is probably the best album released in 2017 so far.
This song gets started and I’m ready to rage as much as 37 year old white dude from Maine is capable of raging, which to be honest, is mostly limited, occasionally possible, but more often than not saved for weddings. Kendrick’s rapid fire, bouncing flow meshes perfectly with the driving beats behind it. The Fox News samples are used perfectly. They aren’t exploited or over-used for effect. Instead they drop in as if to act as casual reminders of some of the nonsense someone like Kendrick is facing.
The music rolls like waves, but Kendrick packs his spitting with ferocity. It creates an ease to the track, an ease not usually found in his songs. That ease is kind of a joke though. I get the feeling Kendrick isn’t one for ease.
“Loyalty” featuring Rihanna
Next to the track with U2, “Loyalty” was already going to be one of the more interesting tracks. How would Kendrick employ our girl RiRi? Would she be reserved for the hook (you know, kind of like Drake?) Instead RiRi is on equal footing here, joining Kendrick on the hook, but also getting a verse of her own in which she shows off her own rapping skills. I’m sure you could read into this and draw conclusions about Drake and Rihanna and Drake and Kendrick, but I’m not going to do that. I mean, it could be fun. But no. No I’m not going to. Let’s just all agree that this song is dope and move on.
I’ve listened to this song at least once a day since it came out and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.
“X.X.X.” featuring U2
You know what I am about this song? I’m pleasantly surprised. I’m also intending on writing more about it shortly.
Again, Kendrick brings his assaulting, hot fire flow along with some mellow beats and the end result is something that sounds smoother than it really is. This track is like a journey, but a journey in which you’re riding shotgun, letting Kendrick do the driving. You’re just along for the ride. It’s a good place to be in when someone like Kendrick is driving.
“See, my pedigree most definitely don’t tolerate the front/Shit I’ve been through prolly offend you/This is Paula’s oldest son/I know murder, conviction/Burners, boosters, burglars, ballers, dead, redemption/Scholars, fathers dead with kids/And I wish I was fed forgiveness”
“Interviews wanna know my thoughts and opinions/Fox News wanna use my name for percentage/My latest muse is my niece, she worth livin’/See me on the TV and scream, ‘That’s Uncle Kendrick!’/Yeah, that’s the business/Somebody tell Geraldo this nigga got some ambition/I’m not a politician, I’m not ’bout a religion/I’m a Israelite, don’t call me Black no mo’/That word is only a color, it ain’t facts no mo’”
“I’m willin’ to die for this shit, I done cried for this shit/Might take a life for this shit, put the Bible down and go eye for an eye for this shit/D.O.T. my enemy, won’t catch a vibe for this shit, ayy/I been stomped out in front of my mama/My daddy commissary made it to commas/Bitch, all my grandmas dead/So ain’t nobody prayin’ for me, I’m on your head, ay”
“I feel like debating on who the greatest can stop it/I am legend, I feel like all of y’all is peasants/I feel like all of y’all is desperate/I feel like all it take is a second to feel like/Mike Jordan whenever holdin’ a real mic/I ain’t feelin’ your presence/Feel like I’ma learn you a lesson”
“Promises are broken and more resentment come alive/Race barriers make inferior of you and I/See, in a perfect world, I’ll choose faith over riches/I’ll choose work over bitches, I’ll make schools out of prison/I’ll take all the religions and put ’em all in one service/Just to tell ’em we ain’t shit, but He’s been perfect, world”
“Hail Mary, Jesus and Joseph/The great American flag is wrapped and dragged with explosives/Compulsive disorder, sons and daughters/Barricaded blocks and borders/Look what you taught us”
“Donald Trump’s in office, we lost Barack/And promised to never doubt him again/But is America honest or do we bask in sin?/Pass the gin, I mix it with American blood/Then bash him in/You crippin’ or you married to blood?, I’ll ask again/Oops—accident”
“All worries in a hurry, I wish I controlled things”
So About That Song With U2
U2 hold off on coming in until halfway through the song, waiting until about the 2:30 mark. And then when they do, it is surprisingly restrained. It’s mostly Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr., laying back on an easy grooving drum and bass line, accented by some piano vamping, which I’m assuming is played by the Edge. Even Bono is playing it restrained, casually singing his hook with the vibe of a lounge singer crooning with one hand holding a mic, the other a cocktail.
I don’t know what I expected, I don’t think anyone did. When it was first reported that U2 would be on the album, I initially thought Kendrick would be sampling a song and thus, the band would be “appearing.” Maybe he’d be rapping over “Bullet the Blue Sky” or “Love or Peace or Something Else,” one of U2’s harder driving songs that could work with Kendrick’s hard driving style. I really didn’t think it’d be anything more than that and now I’m just waiting for someone to write the story about how “X.X.X.” came together because count me in as someone dying to learn more about it.
And Finally, the Best GIF’s From the “Humble” Video
Because it’s a sick video.
(GIFS via Vulture)
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