|First posted 3/2/2019; updated 12/24/2020.|
Released: April 14, 2017
Peak: 14 US, 110 RB, 2 UK, 13 CN, 2 AU
Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.1 UK, 3.45 world (includes US and UK)
Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Total Running Time: 54:54
4.485 out of 5.00 (average of 11 ratings)
Quotable: “The work of a supremely confident artist at the top of his game.” – Alex Petridis, The Guardian
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
Damn. “is less grandiose and novelistic than 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly but it’s still a Kendrick Lamar album, which means that it’s packed with lyrically dense meditations on death, God, fame, responsibility, and the African-American condition.” SL If he “felt pressure to continue living up to his previous output,” AMG “there’s no evidence” AMG on his fourth studio effort.
“After being exalted on previous albums for his fearlessness and social conscience,” BB he told The New York Times that Damn. “wouldn’t pack its predecessor’s heavy political themes.” NME “Lamar gathers all the outward fury he summoned on To Pimp A Butterfly and bends it inward.” AV for “an autobiographical work of epic proportions.” PF He takes “a more microscopic look at the everyday human experience” CS’19 as he traces “the spectrum of his mental states” AMG and examines “most of the seven deadly sins.” AMG “He plays tug-of-war between good and evil, illustrating how futile morality is when you grow up in a place like Compton, where racialized oppression and violence is commonplace.” PF He’d “touched on these themes in his earlier works” PF but here he “dove even deeper into his own head while expanding his sonic palette even further.” TM
This is “a snapshot of an artist at the peak of his powers.” TM “It contains some of Lamar’s best writing and performances, revealing his evolving complexity and versatility as a soul-baring lyricist and dynamic rapper.” AMG He “raps as though he doesn’t need oxygen” IT on “his most unabashed rap banger, rocking hard from start to finish.” RS’19 In Rolling Stone, Christopher R. Weingarten called it “a brilliant combination of the timeless and the modern, the old school and the next level.” WK Entertainment Weekly’s Eric Renner Brown said the album yieled some of Lamar’s “most emotionally resonant music yet.” WK and The Guardian’s Alex Petridis said “it sounds like the work of a supremely confident artist at the top of his game.” WK Slant said it is his “third consecutive masterpiece,” SL “at once accessible and demanding, a work of literary complexity with a mixtape-gritty presentation.” SL
“There’s relative concision in the track titles and material, and a greater emphasis on commercial sounds – such as Mike Will’s lean and piano-laced trap beat for the strong-arming Humble.” AMG Will originally developed the beat for Gucci Mane, but then he showed it to Lamar. Then it was going to be released on Will’s debut album, but Lamar was convinced to keep it for himself. WK The result was his first #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 as a lead artist.
The pair also worked on “the critic-aimed DNA,” TM “again starting with a beat Will had already prepared. Lamar rapped the second verse a cappella and asked Will to build the beat around the rap. Will did so, intending to make it “sound like he’s battling the beat.” WK “‘Humble’ and ‘DNA’ are among his most club-ready bangers to date.” SL The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #4, making it Lamar’s second-highest charting song as a solo artist.
“Love” / “Loyalty”
Other official singles included Love and “the woozy Loyalty,” TM both of which were top 20 pop hits in the U.S. featuring guest turns by Zacari and Rihanna respectively. The latter, a top-10 hit which garnered 2 million sales, “fits right in with R&B radio while also expanding the genre’s thematic and emotional palate.” SL The former was a #1 R&B airplay hit, top-10 pop hit, and was certified by the RIAA for more than 4 million units.
“Fear” / “Feel”
Lamar’s “voice is at its most affecting in its many untreated forms. Take Fear, in which he switches between echoing hot-blooded parental threats to enumerating, with a 40-acre stare, various death scenarios.” AMG The song “showcases the Compton lyricist's biggest worries from ages 7, 17, and 27.” BB “On Feel, Kendrick is a wounded soul looking for reassurance from his loved ones.” BB “As Lamar's paintbrush casts countless different emotional hues over DAMN.'s canvas, he articulates his wins and losses thrillingly.” BB
“His storytelling hits an astonishing new high on Duckworth, the album’s finale. Over ethereal funk sewn by 9th Wonder, Lamar details a potentially tragic encounter between his father and future Top Dawg CEO Anthony Tiffith – and the conditions leading to it.” AMG “Kendrick frames the story as proof of his ‘chosen one’ status, a fateful sign that he’d go on to become the greatest rapper in the world. Whether or not you believe in divine intervention, it’s hard to argue that he didn’t fulfill that prophecy.” PF
It earned Lamar a Grammy for Best Rap Album and a nomination for Album of the Year. It was named album of the year by several publications, including Billboard, Q magazine, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Even more impressive, though, is that it won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music, the first non-jazz or classical work to score such an honor. WK “The committee said the album had ‘vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism’ that captured ‘the complexity of modern African American life.’” ST
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