Album Review: Kendrick’s DAMN.

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Culture Staff Writer | Ben Vizy | bv531614@ohio.edu

Kendrick Lamar, one of the biggest names in rap, has just recently announced a new album. The album was first hinted at in a song released on March 23, titled “The Heart Part IV,” where he teased, “Y’all got ‘til April the 7th to get y’all shit together.” A week later on March 30, Lamar released an impressive new music video for the high-energy track, “HUMBLE.” By the time April 7 came along, he announced the release date for the new album: April 14. Fans had different perspectives on the new songs, release strategy, and what we can expect from Lamar’s latest.

The responses to Lamar’s new material have generally been positive. Senior Kahlil Scott personally prefers “The Heart Part IV” for its lyricism, saying, “I think he just blacks out on that kind of thing, keeping a verse going longer than sixteen bars.” He adds, however, that the music video for “Humble” was “visually amazing.” With Scott, at least, Lamar is two for two.

Kendrick Lamar released new music on April 13th. Via Flickr.

What has been especially interesting about Lamar’s latest release, however, is the release strategy, coming out of nowhere with plenty of mystery surrounding it. Scott hoped that April 7 was the release date, and that the leaked tracklist, promising multiple Kanye-produced tracks, is accurate.

MFA theatre graduate David Vazquez thinks this release strategy is intriguing, but not unexpected. He noted that “more artists in the hip hop industry are taking control of their own promotion. Artists like Kendrick don’t really need any promotion away from publishing things because they’re already so huge.” This strategy is much like Frank Ocean’s 2016 surprise release of Endless and Blonde. Vazquez is happy that hip hop artists in today’s age are able to take more control over their own release strategies.

As far as what they expect from the next album, Lamar’s first full release since 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly, Scott and Vazquez have a few predictions. Both believe he may stray away from the concept albums he has heretofore been known for, including TPAB and Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City. Vazquez points specifically to Untitled Unmastered, Lamar’s 2016 release of B-sides from TPAB, saying the record “showed his lyrical strength away from conceptual works.” He hopes this record may be a bridge between the abstract TPAB and whatever comes next.

Scott and Vazquez also noted Lamar’s confidence, a prominent feature of both tracks he’s released. Scott personally believes that Lamar is the “greatest rapper alive,” and that his new material will solidify that fact in the minds of the public. Vazquez similarly feels, “you’d be a fool to try and beat Kendrick at his own game. He’s got pop level success without pop level records.” Vazquez continues to point out Lamar’s lyricism, a departure from pop radio’s general tendency toward “club music.”

Lamar’s success points to the increase in hip hop’s diversity. Vazquez says, “I feel like the scene has splintered a lot more in the last ten years in a beautiful way,” pointing out alternative hip hop artists like Danny Brown and Action Bronson. He believes that now that hip hop takes itself less seriously than it has in the past, there is a chance for stranger artists to enter the mainstream. Kendrick is just one artist pushing the envelope, and whatever his next release may be, we are sure to hear something new in a genre that is being tested more in this day and age than ever before.

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