DAMN – An analysis of the importance and impact of Kendrick Lamar

By: Brandon Benguaich

DAMN by Kendrick Lamar was realized April 14th, 2017, and at the time, was a highly anticipated, highly listened to, and highly discussed album. It generally received glowing reviews, and currently has a 95 on metacritic, so its safe to say, people think it’s a good album. Kendrick it’s a trailblazer in his field, he dominates the pop charts (he is usually present on the billboard 100) and is considered explorative by music critics, and adored by rap purists. Very few musicians (in general) are able to remain artistically credible and do well on the charts and with record sales. Kendrick Lamar has never “sold out,” he has always remained relevant, with his lyrics, and his performances. Just look at his 2016 performance at the Grammy’s if you need proof. The man has widespread appeal. Several months after the album’s release, there is still buzz about the album, and he is constantly touring as well.

How does Kendrick remain so popular? Let’s look at his albums:

Section.80: Overall great music and lyrics, quality features from talented, wide spread appeal to the masses.

good kid, m.A.A.d city: Generally known for its hits and popularity on the charts, still with plenty of meaningful lyrics, but contains plenty of tracks to listen to on their own.

To Pimp a Butterfly: Generally considered to be quite artistic, it was intended to be listened to from top to bottom, received lots of positive feedback.

DAMN: We talked about this, every song tells a story, and its filled with hits.  This album fulfills the missions of To Pimp a Butterfly and good kid, m.A.A.d city, its artistic, socially relavent, and popular to the mainstream.

Others: It’s worth mentioning Untitled Unmastered which contains other songs recorded during the To Pimp A Butterfly, and get again, this compilation is still pretty good.

Okay so now you’re caught up. We’ve established he is an incredible artist, but still, how is he adored by pop music listeners, and hip-hop heads? It is quite obvious if you look at the numbers, and listen to the buzz by the fans and journalists. Here are my thoughts on how Kendrick appeals to both camps. In terms of lyrics, they are deep, and they tell a story. Just to give one example, on Kendrick’s track “DAMN” there is one small line, with a huge meaning, “This that Grey Poupon, that Evian, that TED Talk, ayy.” Just that reference, “Grey Poupon” holds so much weight, it’s a reference to a fancy mustard from the 60s, that represented rich white men, it’s something that rappers have talked about countless times, in the music video for “DAMN” Kendrick even recreates the commercial. Rap purists, check! Now for casual listeners, look at the chorus, “Bitch be humble (hol’ up, bitch) Sit down (hol’ up, lil’ hol’ up, lil’ bitch), over and over again, repetitious, catchy lyrics are a big part of chart toppers.

Musically, there are tons of jazz and funk idioms within his discography, especially on To Pimp A Butterfly, and on good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick provides a lot of tracks that appeal to the masses such as “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” it’s quite catchy. Within his music, you can delve deep and look at meaning, or simply enjoy it, such as with “Swimming Pools (Drank)” which clearly seems to be about alcoholism. As with meaning, you can look deeply into his musical choices as well, Kendrick Lamar samples a wide array of artists and styles, such as James Brown, and Sufjan Stevens (as heard on To Pimp A Butterfly). If you’re a serious music listener, you can look for and appreciate those things, but you do not have to.

So, Kendrick Lamar appeals to both sides of the spectrum, you can choose to really delve in deep, listen to his story, discover the meaning, or  you can simple put on some headphones and tap your foot. Kendrick manages to apply to such a wide range of people, he continues to do well, and there is no stopping him.

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