The classic album will always be a point of discussion and deliberation in Hip-Hop but what will never be open for debate are its timeless, legendary moments. The Black Album and Stillmatic can and will always be contested but Jay Z and Nas squashing their beef in front of a crowd of 20,000 will forever hold its meaning regardless of what anyone could ever say. It’s not often we realise that we are living through one of these moments but once in a while, a rapper comes around so special, they have us looking forward to the memories of present day.
DAMN. is one of those moments.
In an age of saturation, Kendrick Lamar makes a point to disappear between album cycles. In an age of surface level lyricism, Kendrick Lamar rises as an elite MC. In an age of disposable music, Kendrick Lamar crafts bodies of works worth dissecting for years. This is due not only to high level production, masterful engineering and great rapping but frankly, genius concepts.
Every Kendrick Lamar project since Section. 80 (at the very least) contains content which fans could spend an eternity pondering. Key points are left open to interpretation and complex themes are explored in detail from multiple perspectives. DAMN. is the epitome of this style. Just hours after the album leaked, theories were scattered all over social media and Rap forums and people were as confused as they were amazed. And that was only after track one.
‘BLOOD.’ marks the first time that the opening piece on a K. Dot album contains absolutely no rapping. But remarkably, it has by far been the most examined introductory song on any project. Even more so than ‘Wesley’s Theory’, ‘Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter’ or ‘Fuck Your Ethnicity’.
After a cryptic few lines by Bēkon, the already highly quoted and famous story begins. “So I was taking a walk the other day…”
The observant suggestion has been made that the image of the feeble blind woman juxtaposed with the harsh reality of a murderous gunshot implies the “wicked or weakness” theme visited throughout the album. However, this theory fails to acknowledge the outro to the song in which Fox News’ criticism of ‘Alright’ is sampled. Coincidence is just not a word that exists in Kendrick Lamar’s lexicon. The story of the blind woman and this sample have to be linked.
To examine further, we must travel back two years. With To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar attacked topics so crucial that he deserved praise simply for the attempt. The success in the execution is a different story entirely. Just like he did when he walked over to the blind lady, Lamar had innocently pure intentions with the release of his sophomore effort.
After watching us “struggle for a while”, he shared To Pimp A Butterfly with the objective of lending “a helping hand” to the same lost generation he addressed four years prior on Section. 80. Although critics loved the album and it will likely go down as one of the greatest albums of all time bar none, as with any polarising piece of art, there was always going to be an audience who condemned it. Cue Fox News’ dismissal of his police brutality lyrics. “Ugh, please. I don’t like it.”
The accusations that Kendrick’s ‘Alright’ and BET Awards performance were regressive by any stretch of the imagination was a figurative shot in the head. Kendrick tried only to uplift and instead he was almost pulled down. We as a people shocked and disappointed him.
The blind woman represents us.
The vivid mental picture of a seemingly approachable and vulnerable woman being capable of such a final, cold hearted action must have been a deep point of inspiration for this album. Betrayal at its finest. It is an outstanding metaphor that continues to prove why Kendrick Lamar is a one of a kind poet whose legacy will never be up for debate.
– by Akaash Sharma