Contributing writer Erlin Rogel takes a ratchademic’s look at Kendrick Lamar’s newest release, DAMN.
To Pimp a Butterfly was George Clinton, was jazz, was funk, was soul, was reflective, was smooth, was God. DAMN. is more rude, more raw, more rock and roll, more 90s West Coast and New York rap, more abrasive, more harsh, more God.
Kung-Fu Kenny, formerly known as Cornrow Kenny, takes us on a journey into the wilderness with him.
DAMN. could’ve easily been named The Temptation of Kendrick, except Lamar’s struggle with ego and temptation reminds the rest of us that we’re human and not Holy-aka not perfect.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
After fasting 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
DAMN. is the classic story of enlightenment. Put another way, Lamar in DAMN. is Siddartha in the classic Herman Hesse novel. A spiritual peace-seeker conflicted between possessing worldly wealth or harboring wealth of the spirit. A bearer of the Third Eye that is sometimes blinded by temptation, LUST. and PRIDE-a man who meditates and is capable of nirvana, but sometimes struggles to be HUMBLE. His Kamala-Siddhartha’s seductive temptress-is “the culture” and just like Kamala asked Siddhartha for luxuries in exchange for love and warmth, Lamar feels as if he needs to flex, claim supremacy and snatch the crown for the fans’ affection-for his ego’s fulfillment.
Too often, he gets caught up in “who’s the best” rat races, “put[s] the bible down” and doubles down on his ELEMENT. This ego-driven thirst for acclaim contaminates his spirit making him FEEL. anxious and insecure about his status, not only in hip-hop, but before the eyes of GOD.-a track in which he converses with a furious God for his god status-claiming ways. Side note: It is also a song in which his style is similar to that of Kanye West, coincidence?
He has to remind himself of what FEAR. feels like (like when his parents beat him as a child or when he was scared of going broke at 27) because ultimately, “what happens on Earth stays on Earth.” BLOOD. won’t transcend to the heavens with his spirit and while there is some explanation for his sinning due to the complex history in his DNA (like the unfortunate plight of Johnny in XXX.) Lamar needs to remain LOYAL. to God’s teachings, stay proximate to LOVE. and not veer off of his enlightened path, or his soul be DAMN.[ed].
EXCEPT, God isn’t so black and white. She isn’t so cruel and unforgiving.
It’s no coincidence DAMN. dropped on Good Friday-the day Jesus willfully died by crucifixion, making the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. (Maybe more shots at Kanye?) Lamar bears a heavy burden for his sins, sometimes sinking to levels of self-hatred and depression; chastising his soul for mot living up to his rigid standards of faith.
EXCEPT, God doesn’t ask us to grovel. She doesn’t ask us for perfection. She just asks us to feel genuine remorse and stay loyal to Her teachings. She doesn’t ask us to punish ourselves obsessively; a tenet Lamar is yet to feel comfortable with.
Easter is our reminder of Jesus’ victory over sin and death, a celebration of the rebirth of man and woman. If DAMN. is the capsule of sin and guilt Kendrick buried in Jesus’s grave, will Easter deliver us a new album symbolic of his spiritual rebirth? The streets is talking about a double album, part 2 to drop on Sunday!!
But what if I told you… that's not the official version..
— Sounwave (@SounwaveTDE) April 14, 2017
9/10: Kung-Fu Kenny is 3/3 on Classics son. Since his major label debut, that is.