SUNDAY TIMES - Should we really give a 'DAMN' about Kendrick Lamar's new album?
Sunday Times Entertainment By Yolisa Mkele, 2017-05-19 00:00:00.0

Should we really give a 'DAMN' about Kendrick Lamar's new album?

Kendrick Lamar performs at the Global Citizen Festival in New York in 2016. (File photo.)

Yolisa Mkele is inherently suspicious of any album that's gushed over by audiences and critics alike

If it's reception is anything to go by, Kendrick Lamar's latest album DAMN makes sliced bread look like a minor footnote in history.

Audiences and critics alike have gushed over Lamar's fourth studio album in a way that is deserved but a little suspicious.

Objectively speaking, K Dot, as he's also known, is the best rapper alive and DAMN reflects that. Few, if any, currently active rappers can match the content and sheer technical genius that Lamar seems to produce at will.

His last project, Untitled, Unmastered, had ears doing gymnastics as they tried to keep up with K Dot's lyrical dexterity and story-telling ability. Similarly, his last full studio album, To Pimp a Butterfly, had the hip-hop community convinced that he'd descended from the heavens to bless us with raps from the gods.

With this album Lamar continues that trend. The story-telling on the album is rich and vivid, often coming across as the audio version of a hood documentary. He also manages to touch deftly on topics such as growing up in the US's ghettos, Donald Trump and societal beauty standards without coming off as preachy or pretentious.

DAMN has an interesting sonic aesthetic. The entire album reeks of '90s West Coast rap. It's easy to imagine the album blaring out of a boom box on a street corner where a group of friends wearing Chuck Taylors and impossibly baggy pants have gathered.

Yet, despite all its positives, DAMN just doesn't move me. Perhaps it's because I'm inherently suspicious of any album that has universal acclaim or, as some have pointed out, I am a hater.

Despite it's objective brilliance the album does little to stir emotion. It tastes anachronistic - like a modern re-imagining of Chicken Kiev as a TV dinner. It has soul and is brimming with emotion, but it almost seems as if one is seeing that emotion with detached interest through a dusty window. In the words of Hlaudi Motsoeneng: "It doesn't have that thing!"

Admittedly, I seem to be the only person in the world who feels that way but that's okay. Maybe my tiny mind is not equipped to fully appreciate K Dot's genius. I shall be rightly damned to an eternity of flames and elevator music for my crimes. Nonetheless DAMN feels like a project worthy of a lesser version of Kendrick Lamar, one infatuated with a bygone era.

WATCH the music video for DNA from Kendrick Lamar's DAMN album


'DAMN' is available on Apple Music and on CD.

This article was originally published in the Times.