Kendrick Lamar‘s latest album title DAMN. could have stemmed from a number of things. Maybe his gut reaction to the state of society in Trump’s America — scarred by police brutality, hate crimes, terrorist attacks and social media ridicule — or maybe even the first word he uttered after hearing his fourth album in full for the first time.
Still, DAMN. is perhaps the best way to describe the lyricist’s present mental state. The good kid is now just trying to be a good man. Whether it’s worrying he might lose his creativity or his M’s to criticizing Fox News, Donald Trump and the blue suits, Lamar keeps it 100 and then some on the loaded album.
Below are several things we observed after running through DAMN.
He isn’t a fan of Fox News
After Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera criticized his 2015 BET Awards performance of “Alright,” Lamar sampled the report in the DAMN. opener “Blood” and also calls out the network for even putting his name in their mouth.
“Interviews wanna know my thoughts and opinions/ Fox News wanna use my name for percentage/ My latest news is my niece, she’s worth livin’/ See me on the TV and scream, ‘That’s Uncle Kendrick’/ Yeah, that’s the business/ Somebody tell Geraldo this n—a got some ambition,” Lamar spits on “YAH.”
He questions who’s looking out for him
This isn’t new knowledge, but Lamar keeps his family close. He shouts out his momma, his dad, his woman, his cousin and his auntie throughout the 14-track offering. And while his lucrative success off rap has him taking care of his day-ones, he still finds himself asking on “FEEL.”: “I feel like the whole world want me to pray for ’em/ But who the f— prayin’ for me?”
He’s switching up the release strategy
In the era of streaming, Kendrick Lamar is releasing physical copies of DAMN. in addition to plopping it on streaming services. (See Verse 2. on “ELEMENT.”) To note, Billboard‘s genre album charts incorporate both traditional album sales and streaming numbers.
He worries about money
“Fear.” finds Lamar learning to cope with fear at ages 7, 17 and 27. The third verse on “Fear.” shows Lamar listing his gravest concerns as a 27-year-old. “At 27, my biggest fear was losin’ it all/ Scared to spend money, had me sleepin’ from hall to hall/ Scared to go back to Section 8 with my mama stressin’/ 30 shows a month and I still won’t buy me no Lexus,” he raps.
He even questions trusting his accountant, referencing “Loyalty” collaborator Rihanna‘s 2015 case where the bad gal’s accountant went missing after she sued him for doling out bad advice that made her lose a reported $9 million in a year. “The type of shit’ll make me flip out and just kill somethin’, drill somethin’,” he spits.
…But he LOLs to the bank
On the next entry “GOD.,” Lamar sings on the hook, “This what God feel like, yeah/ Laughing to the bank like aha, yeah.”
He really loves his lady
While Lamar is notoriously private about his relationship with his fiancee, high school sweetheart Whitney Alford, “Love” seems to be a special note to his woman. When he offers “I had to do it, I want your body, your music/ I bought the big one to prove it,” it could be a nod to the ring he put on her finger.
He isn’t afraid to take it there
On the U2-assisted “XXX” featuring U2, Lamar recalls a conversation with a friend whose son was killed over “insufficient funds” and sought the rapper’s advice. He then admits: “‘I can’t sugar coat the answer for you, this is how I feel/ If somebody kill my son, that mean that somebody’s gettin’ killed’.” Later in the verse, Lamar says he’d be the type to shoot his son’s killer, throw the hardware on his lap then head to court and cop to it for the love of his family.
The past still weighs heavy on his mind
Again, not a new theme in Kendrick’s catalog, but the narratives get deeper and more vivid. Whether it’s reminiscing on “syrup sandwiches and crime allowances” (“HUMBLE.”) or being 9 years old with nowhere to stay with his parents (“DNA.”) to being scared of getting his butt whooped (“FEAR.”), the cobwebs of the past still cling to the corners of his mind.
This also rings true of the people who surround him. On the final track “Duckworth” — a nod to his last name and also his father, Kenny Duckworth — Lamar offers a vivid profile of two characters, Anthony (referring to Top Dawg CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith) and Ducky, and how their lives could have intertwined in one twisted incident, ultimately impacting his own: “Whoever thought the greatest rapper would be from coincidence/ Because if Anthony killed Ducky, Top Dawg could be servin’ life/ While I grew up without a father and die in a gun fight.”