A Slightly Premature Full Length Discussion About Kendrick Lamar’s New Album, DAMN. » VSB

Featured, Music, Pop Culture

A Slightly Premature Full Length Discussion About Kendrick Lamar’s New Album, DAMN.

Top Dawg Entertainment


Dustin Seibert and I decided to discuss Kendrick Lamar’s latest proper album release, DAMN. because what else are we supposed to do when one of the biggest artists in the game today drops a project? Exactly.

Panama: At roughly 11pm EST last night, I was alerted via Facebook that Kung Fu Kenny’s latest will-be-hailed-as-a-classic album DAMN. was available on Apple Music (and presumably other streaming services, I didn’t check). I don’t think that we can let this day go by #onhere without talking about this project. You and I have both listened to it multiple times and have some opinions. Before we get to those, I’m aware that the album leaked earlier in the day, then Sounwave (TDE producer on Kendrick’s label) tweeted something implying that the leak might not be the official version. You’re a criminal so I know you had the leak. What did you make of Sounwave’s tweet and then his attempt to subsequently send all conspiracy theorists into DefCon 9 with his picture of Morpheus?

Dustin: It could mean two things: Either Kendrick is gonna pull off some Life of Pablo-esque “living album” move, or Sounwave just didn’t want people bootlegging Kendrick’s shit and hoped that his tweet would stave off the masses until they could buy it legally. The former would be interesting, because TLOP’s constantly-evolving production and verses were unprecedented and somewhat interesting. But on the other hand, there’s a physical disc of DAMN. right now that kinda murders that theory. If it’s the latter, Sounwave was just trying to be an uphill ice-skating nigga, since you can’t stop the leak.

Panama: You know, part of me would love for the conspiracy theorists to be right and we get a double disc on Easter Sunday as Kendrick anoints himself the only official rap God. Outlandish as that might be, it would make for good theater. Aight, so how many times have you listened to the album so far. Myself, five times. I thought it was six, but then I remembered I actually did go to sleep last night.

Dustin: I’m at like two and a half listens. Enough to know for sure the songs I DON’T like (Bye, “LOYALTY” and “LOVE”). I know what songs I really will spin on a regular basis as well. The rest of it is a grower…and if you aren’t patient with it, you will miss a lot of beat switches and mid-song-flow-cadence switches. That happened to me with “DNA”…it’s a dope song, but I skipped it the first time and missed the beat switch, which makes the song even better.

Also, there are literally maybe two or three double albums in hip-hop history that are worth a quarter of a damn, so I would advise Kendrick and everyone else against content overload.

Panama: I don’t think I’m at a point that I know songs I don’t like. I also think repetition makes all songs seem better than they actually are. I think that’s why I like “Just Like Daddy” off of 2Pac’s The Don Killuminati album; I listened it one too many times and told myself it wasn’t that bad. I can say though, that there are a litany of songs that I do like, which includes: “DNA”, “ELEMENT”, “FEEL”, “PRIDE”, “FEAR”, “GOD”, and “DUCKWORTH”. On any other album, liking half of an album might be enough to call it a seminal album. Shit, people call NWA’s Straight Outta Compton a classic and can’t name more than three, MAYBE four songs off of that album, which is where everything gets complicated with Kendrick. He’s not just another rapper. His place in history is already set, now we’re just trying to figure out exactly where he belongs and if he’s making it onto hip-hop’s Mt. Rushmore. Everything gets dissected to the nth degree, though to be fair, Cornrow Kenny is intentionally making music to be dissected.

To me, Good Kid. Maad City. (GKMC) was like D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar album, and To Pimp A Butterfly (TPAB) was like Voodoo, an entirely different direction, more artful, more purposeful, and full on departure. Kendrick didn’t make a leap, he left the planet compared to his prior project. This album is somewhere in the middle of GKMC and TPAB to me. It sounds like the album that would have come after GKMC on his way to making TPAB and going full artist on us.

Dustin: Great comparison RE: D’Angelo. For many years, Brown Sugar was my favorite album, and only in my 30s did I come to determine that Voodoo, despite being a huge left turn, is superior (not to mention the SINGLE BLACKEST ALBUM OF ALL TIME). I can tell you that I strained to like TPAB, and the only reason for that strain was near-universal critical approval. But the fact remains I can play GKMC from front to back and skip only a couple tracks, while I skip most of TPAB with the exception of a few tracks. Will I feel differently about TPAB 15 years from now like I did Voodoo? Perhaps, but that’s part of the reason that I loathe people dubbing albums classics 27 seconds after they drop.

Kendrick is in that rarefied air of being a rapper whose lyrics we actually listen to, which is a good thing for the genre since I challenge anyone to point out his equivalent 10 years ago. But as you like to point out, anyone who is NOT Kendrick laying tracks over the production of these last two records might catch a side-eye. It’s the Dead Rapper Syndrome: niggas become greats only when they’re pushing daisies, except Kendrick is alive, so maybe it’s the Living Rapper Who Created a Classic Album Syndrome. Or some shit…I dunno.  

Panama: I’d wager that this isn’t the album that anybody expected, and since that’s what I’m wagering, I’m guessing that all of Kendrick’s peers ALSO didn’t expect this album and were all listening last night too, sitting around with their crews, looking at one another like, “I mean, like, did he body us or nah? I’m confused. I don’t even know what this album is about.” Big Sean, in particular, since every body has been running with the Kenny going at Big Sean angle. He HAD to be the most interested in what this album would sound like, right? Especially after he dropped I Decided and attempted to go a little deeper conceptually, which I’m not saying he doesn’t have the talent to go there, I’m just saying that “One Man Can Change The World” is Big Sean’s entire skillset in a nutshell: good-ish ideas, better production, odd execution, and lines like, “hope you get the pretty girls that’s pretty at everything” which I’m not sure means anything. I’m not sure Drake even cares anymore because he’s too busy sitting in a Patois 102 class working on his new accent.

Dustin: I’ll say Big Sean doesn’t have the talent to go there. Look…he’s from my home town and we share the same high school alma mater, but Sean is like a Tombstone Pizza…his shit’ll do if you’re in a pinch and you have no other hip-hop options for your weekly spin class, but no one reflects on a Tombstone Pizza, like, DAMN. that meal was amazing!” More like I Decided to hit the skip button.

But I digress. It doesn’t matter if K-Dot was really talking about Sean in the second movement of “The Heart Pt. 4” – it matters that people THINK he was. In hip-hop, that’s the equivalent of a gauntlet thrown down, and if Sean was really about his craft, then he’d fall back off of all this “Kumbaya”-ass, Michael Jackson-Paul McCartney-“The Girl is Mine”-we-ain’t-REALLY-beefing-in-real-life-ass shit and drop a “Shether” on Kendrick. At any rate, the visual of Drake sitting in his home studio intently and shoo-ing away his Werther’s Original-complected chick of the day while taking in DAMN. is quite amusing.

Panama: Alright, since this isn’t intended to be a proper review since I think it’s WAY too early to do that, let’s talk, prematurely, about how this album fits in with his legacy. Does it strengthen it, weaken it, keep it in the same spot? For reference, I don’t think any of Drake’s albums have really moved the needle on his legacy. Drake’s consistency and ability to drop banger singles (and great to ZOMG! guest appearances) have solidified his legacy. Kendrick doesn’t really do that so his album output is really the evidence to measure against. And since we’re talking current day legacy rappers which really includes Kendrick and Drake and a little further down the line, Cole, Sean (I have no idea why), and the Walé’s of the world…

…you know what? Why doesn’t Rick Ross ever enter into these lyricist arguments? Because their content is different? Rick Ross is actually a better rapper than all of them but Kendrick and Drake. Back to the lecture at hand. What does this album, in your estimation, do for the race for #1 between Kendrick and Drake?

Dustin: You can’t just throw a whammy up in there and not expect me to at least acknowledge it. Rawse a better rapper than Cole? That’s debatable, though I wouldn’t spend an inordinate amount of time debating that. Let’s just all agree that Ross makes better overall music than Lunesta Cole and keep it moving, yes?

This album won’t do for Kendrick what TPAB did. It won’t yield all the think-pieces and hyperbole of that album because the aggressive, pointed “blackness” is not at the forefront. TPAB came out at a time when black America had it up to the gills with police brutality and was engaged in a national unrest of sorts. DAMN doesn’t seem as topical out the gate, even though he does invest several bars on Trump.

I think it was important to him to return to the boom-bap aesthetic of GKMC and Section.80 to hang on to the fans who – like me – weren’t impressed with TPAB as a total listening experience. Everyone is stuck on “DNA,” which is only track 2, because the drums go hardbody and he’s spitting like lyrics are going outta style. With the exception of “The Blacker the Berry,” that experience didn’t exist on TPAB.

But the one thing Kendrick has shown that Drake hasn’t in years is progression. Drake is stuck in this progressively irritating malaise of rapping about pining after women he’s lost, all the work he puts in to make other people happy and “singing” that sounds like someone zipped a bunch of kittens in a diaper bag and dumped them into a pit lava like Arnold at the end of “Terminator 2.” One can pine for the “old Kendrick,” but no one anywhere will tell you that he’s releasing the same music over and over on every album, a la Aubrey.

Panama: Yeah, the Rick Ross tangent was a set-up. My bad. In regards to DAMN. I agree, I don’t think it will spawn as many substantive think-pieces as TPAB for the exact reason you stated, though I also believe people will try. Kendrick is a think-piece rapper though I’m not entirely sure he should be. Part of me thinks we’re really just looking for a rapper that makes us think so there’s a lot more navel-gazing with Kendrick. He’s earned the conversation he’s garnered though, I’ll grant him that.

Alright, let’s wrap this up, and make it look sexy. What are your last thoughts, at least on this first full day of the release of DAMN.? Personally, I’m still trying to dissect it and determine just how I feel about it as a project. But that will require me to do a lot more listening. I’m glad Kendrick continues to create music that’s not simple and requires us to think. I appreciate that. I am very curious how this album will be received and digested by the masses. Plus, he’s a man after my own heart since in everything I do, I make it look sexy. He’s good in my book for life because of that.

Dustin: I listened to “DAMN” the majority of this morning as I wrote, walked my mama’s dog and drove to Olga’s Kitchen for lunch. I probably have music playing at least 72 percent of any given day, and the most compelling music of any genre works its way from lingering in the background to capturing my attention to the detriment of other shit I should be doing. A good amount of this album kinda lingered in the background, even as I completed mundane tasks. That’s not a good sign for long-term playability. There are several joints on “DAMN” that I will certainly be playing for a while, but the only new track that dropped last night that made me go Ric Flair “WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” was Talib Kweli and Styles P’s “Nine Point Five” joint featuring The Lox. When I hit the gym in a couple hours, I’ll be more excited about playing that than anything from DAMN.

However, my guy Vernal, who has a similar initial reaction to the album that I do, just texted me a great point: “I’ll say this much, it’s nice to have a rapper around who excels at rhyming, can express political and social awareness without being smarmy (Common), and strives to raise his work to the level of art without being a megalomaniac (Kanye).” Like you, I will always get hype for new Kendrick. He’s earned our attention.  

Panama: Word that up.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • Darkchloe144

    The album is LIT. No question. But I can never decide which one of the four I think is “better” . It’s more of a “what am I in the mood for” situation. TPAB is my favorite, but I don’t play it nearly as often as GKMC (or DAMN right now cuz it’s LIT).

  • It’s not on Google Play so I ain’t listen. Vince Staples said he was the greatest rapper so I believe his word.

    • Mr. Mooggyy

      Not on Amazon Prime either!

      • Darkchloe144

        It’s on Spotify.

        • Spotify got that Kazaa audio quality

          • I Came I Saw

            -rolls eyes-

            • DO NOT UP VOTE HER VAL

              • I Came I Saw


          • miss t-lee

            If it sounds like Kazaa that’s on your end. Better check your settings

      • cakes_and_pies

        How is this on Napster, but not on Amazon Prime.

        • ForeveryMountain

          Napster is still a thing?

          • cakes_and_pies


    • Madam CJ_Skywalker

      On Tidal too….

      • I consume too much YouTube content to get rid of Google Play even though I highly recommend Tidal. Google has much better playlists via their radio

        • Madam CJ_Skywalker

          Same. I actually have both accounts, but u find Google has better playlists?
          To me it’s vice versa.

    • TCB

      Vince is the young GOAT tho lowkey

    • JulianWithTheRedCorvette

      Vince Staples is a brand you can trust.

    • cyanic

      Spotify has a free tier.

  • Dustin John Seibert

    I gave it another spin at the gym. Album as a whole doesn’t pass the Workout Test (you can’t lift a dizamn thing to “FEAR” though it is a smooth listen), but, of course, “DNA” sounds amazing coming out of my headphones and the two 10s in my trunk.

    I’m okay with Kendrick putting out case-study hip-hop, but I’m also okay with acknowledging that it’s not for the mainstream or even regular spins from us heads. It’s like comparing “House of Cards” to “Real Housewives of Love and Hip-Hop Whatever.” They’re both entertaining in their own respects, but the former is like college-degree television while the latter can be enjoyed by anyone willing to shut their brains off.

  • TCB

    Can you guys feel the difference between people praying for you and not praying for you? I thought it was another interesting idea brought up by Lamar on this album.

    • A.G.

      Which song(s)? Haven’t heard all the songs yet.

      I can definitely feel it, especially when they tell me after the fact. It’s something about their eyes…like the scripture says “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” You’ll know when they tell you.

      If they don’t tell you, you’ll also know because you realize that you wouldn’t have made it to this very moment if it weren’t for SOMEBODY praying for you, because very often, it can be difficult to pray for yourself.

      My response was probably way too deep, but…

    • cakes_and_pies

      Yeah. I’ll be the first to say I don’t pray for everyone who asks for prayer.

    • miss t-lee

      I’m very particular about who I ask to pray for me, so I’d say yes.

      • You sound like my gramps.
        ” don’t let just anybody pray for you.”

        • miss t-lee

          ‘Tis true.

        • Livelovelaugh916

          Not even at church, I just kindly say no thank you. My mama said you don’t know what intentions that person has so don’t let just any body lay hands on you. So get thee behind me Satan.

    • nillalatte

      I ran into some guy on the net and he was spouting off something terrible. I told him, “Someone needs to pray for you. It won’t be me, but somebody needs to.” He never wrote back. LOL

  • Spicy Kas

    Luuvie finally offered an apology. It seemed sincere.

    • I Came I Saw

      What happened with that? There was a lot of Twitter beef I couldn’t keep up with this week. Also, what happened today with a woman giving a man $20,000?

      • Roz

        I have done a lot of things for love; context is needed.

      • Spicy Kas

        No idea on the 20k

      • L8Comer

        Shots fired were meant for a specific person but she left it general, and went in on activists who charge white people a fee to educate them and then said mixed people are always the most CAPS CAPS CAPS, gully on race issue cuz they’re trying to overcompensate… for what, idk. Maybe their proximity to whiteness? I always figured that proximity has gotta be tough. microaggressions coming from grandma? Must suck.

        Anyway people got angry, many people thought the shade was directed at their other fave and popped off, luvvie doubled down, and then she apologized today.

      • miss t-lee

        Dude was a scammer, chick got scammed.

      • L8Comer

        But she was begging for the D, that’s all I know. Like thirsty. He said her puss was flight, but she’s too crazy. She aired him out, he responded in kind

        • I Came I Saw

          What does “flight” mean??

          • Spicy Kas

            Top flight? Very good?

            • I Came I Saw

              Eh… No. What you won’t do is make up nonsense to describe my snootch and not at least have it be flattering.

              • Spicy Kas

                So you will stick withe “the bomb cat”?

                • I Came I Saw

                  I’ll accept a toss of flower petals. But we not just sayin any ole thing.

              • Roz


              • Spicy Kas

                But you just referred to it as a snootch?

                • I Came I Saw

                  I didn’t know what disqus would let me get away with.

          • L8Comer

            I do not know! I was so intrigued. A typo for aight or fire? Or is her puss taking u places? Either way tho, flight puss doesn’t overcome crazy so it can’t be allll that great.

            • I Came I Saw

              LOL is it taking you places tho?? Dang I gotta step up my game if snootches do all that now.

              • L8Comer

                It may be ????? Outta body experience? Take u to that stars? A different dimension? It can happen

    • Yeah, she got extra with the light skinned beef. Her original point was fine, but in hindsight, shooting for #teamlightskinned was extra.

      • panamajackson

        The mixed folks shots seemed so randomly unnecessary. And it aint like I’m out here flying the mixed kid flag but man, talk about wtf. But yes, she issued her mea culpa. And the beat goes on.

    • LMNOP

      Unlike a certain… you know what? Let me walk away and not start sht on Good Friday.

    • cakes_and_pies

      More money, more attention, more problems.

    • A.G.

      I still don’t know what happened with that.

      • AKA The Sauce


    • L8Comer


    • miss t-lee


    • Michelle is my First Lady

      Read the comments. Folks are still going in.

    • AKA The Sauce

      bout what

  • The last paragraph reflects my thoughts well. This reminds me of Common and Kanye before they got self-righteous (Common) or jumped completely out the window with his vision (Kanye). In fairness to Kanye, those signs that he was going to jump out the window were always there. It’s just that no one really believed them, and the music was good enough that no one *really* cared.

    Also, this album is reminiscent of the lighter, non-gun oriented stuff that played on Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito back in the day. Stuff like Common and the Alkaholiks and Pharcyde. I can see where he’s coming from on this, and it’s a part of my youth that I miss. I still love the gunplay and coke flow, but in my better moods, I love stuff like this.

    I’d say Kendrick Lamar has finally relaxed. He made his point with TPAB, and now he can relax. It’s the album I anticipated would follow TPAB, and the world is better for it. I like it! This is joining the rotation.

  • L8Comer

    I like the same songs as panama. I’m ill, but I too have been making it sexy. Anyway someone told me Kendrick said on this album he was not black anymore and was an Israelite? I gotta listen to lyrics now. I been all hooks and beats

    • Blueberry01

      Oh sh*t. He ain’t black no mo’?!? #DAMN

  • DNA fill stop. Fave.
    Loyalty’s ending is a nah for me… gave me all the domestic abuse fuck boi feels.

    Chorus 2: Kendrick Lamar & Rihanna]
    Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty
    Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty
    10-4, no switchin’ sides
    Feel somethin’ wrong
    You actin’ shifty, you don’t ride
    With me no more, I need
    Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty
    Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty

    [Outro: Rihanna]
    It’s so hard to be humble
    It’s so hard to be
    Lord knows is I’m tryin’
    Lord knows is I’m dyin’, baby

  • miss t-lee

    Another Kendrick lovefest, eh?
    *Bill Russell yawn*

  • Brass Tacks

    Stop with the Big Sean slander.

    • cyanic

      His contribution to the world is a slander song against a former lover who married someone else real swift on him.

More Like This