The word damn is funny to me. So when I found out that would be the title of Kendrick's 5th album, I laughed. I thought about all the funny quotes from icons of the past. Florida Evans' classic breakdown on "Good Times." Vernell Hill's(Tommy Davidson) reaction after asking Martin if he would be in L.A. Smokey and Craig's stretched out, exaggerated reaction after noticing Red's black eye courtesy of Debo. Ron Simmons' last great run as a pro wrestler was fueled by the word. The curse has been used as a title before in hip hop, when Fabolous and The Youngbloodz (who were riding the crunk wave) dropped singles entitled DAMN in 2003. I believe Kendrick was making a statement with the title. I believe he was saying it's been a very long time since you've heard an entire album that made you utter the word DAMN! Sure, we've heard hot songs, dope bars and very good albums, but when's the last time you've listened to an album so good, that all you can say was DAMN? Very few albums have left me at a loss for words. Kendrick sent a message that he was planning to raise the bar yet again, and it would behoove other rappers to pay attention and take notes. There's an ongoing theme hidden within K Dot's catalog. His split personality shines throughout, and it seems like he's more in control of it. In past projects, it would take a few songs for Kendrick to show you both sides. On DAMN, he's able to do it in two bars or less. "Bitch, all my grandmoms dead/ so ain't nobody praying for me/ I'm on your head." A spiritual disclaimer before an attack screams crazy, and only Kendrick can pull that off, which he does on "Element." One of the most fascinating qualities of a K Dot album is the attention to detail. Kendrick really wants to be the best ever, and he's leaving no stone unturned, covering all bases, and any other cliche term that can describe his obsession with creating the perfect album. "DNA" is Kendrick's complex way of telling you that's he's cut from a different cloth, and you're not him. "See my pedigree/most definitely/ don't tolerate the front/shit I been through/probably offend you/this is Paula's oldest son." After he describes why he's so dope, he goes on to explain why others aren't. "You's a bitch/hormones probably switched inside your DNA/problem is/all that sucker shit's inside your DNA/Daddy probably snitched/heritage/inside your DNA....." every song serves a purpose on DAMN. There's no filler, no formula music that fans are forced to listen to. "XXX" shows Kendrick channeling NWA circa "Fuck the Police." "Ain't no black power/when your baby's killed by a coward/I can't even keep the peace/don't fuck with one of ours." "Loyalty" questions the very meaning of the word, and Kendrick and Rhianna pose scenarios which challenge the listener to make decisions. "Pride" highlights the debilitating shortcoming that most of us have. But in true Kendrick fashion, he owns his flaws. He almost makes it cool to have foolish pride. He points out that we all ain't shit. He also asks numerous times for people to pray for him throughout the album. Another awesome thing about Kendrick is that he knows hip hop history. He's done his homework, and he pays homage, unlike some of his disrespectful peers. On To Pimp A Butterfly, he showed love to 2pac. On DAMN, it's the one and only Kid Capri supplying a mid 90s mixtape feel to DAMN, introducing new tracks from "Kung-fu Kenny."
DAMN is yet another top notch body of work from a young man who's well on his way to becoming one of the greats of all time. In my opinion, he'll end up being the greatest Dre protege ever. Think about it. Kendrick doesn't use Dre's name or production to further his career, while protégés of the past used them almost as a crutch. Kendrick doesn't need Dre to succeed. That alone makes him one of the best. He's separating himself from his peers, etching his name in the history books as arguably the greatest of his era. J Cole and Drake may beg to differ, but the body of work is starting to become undeniable. King Kendrick wants to be on the Mt. Rushmore of hip hop, and he's going to get there by any means necessary. DAMN is just another stepping stone to greatness.