Context – Getting Ready For Work
I was too excited I couldn’t wait. And what a way to start your day! This album is superb.
Before I get into how I feel about this album (great), I want to thank Kendrick for giving me an opportunity to discuss one of my more controversial stylistic choices. If you haven’t noticed, I tend to put my punctuation outside of quotation marks. So if I were to reference a song such as “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” at the end of a sentence, I would put the period after the quotation marks. In practice it looks like “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”. This drives my wife crazy.
But I’ve explained to her several times, quotation marks are to represent a thing as printed or said, and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” doesn’t have a period in it. It seems wrong to add a period to the tile of a song just because of where it falls syntactically. Every song off DAMN. has a period at the end of it, like “DNA.” or “HUMBLE.”. Jury’s out on that last sentence though, the double period bothers me despite it checking off my boxes. I’ll keep y’all posted.
BUT. EVERY. TRACK. ON. THIS. BITCH. IS. FIRE. I’m imagining that kind of stylizing or speaking is what he was going for given his naming conventions on the album, and it mostly works. This album loses some of the boundary pushing that was inherent in To Pimp a Butterfly, but he maintains all of his social awareness, aggression, and mastery of rhythm. These are more “traditional” or “standard” tracks, but they’re still better than most other rapper’s tracks. As such, Kendrick has re-affirmed his position as best rapper alive, and probably moves up a seed or two in the bracket for Best Rapper Ever.
Personally, I’ll probably return to this album more than To Pimp a Butterfly, if only because I’ll have more context that will be appropriate for this. There are no skits, no interludes, no spoken word repetitions on this album, all of which is a plus as far as I’m concerned. I thought those elements were effective in To Pimp a Butterfly, but on re-listens I find myself skipping them more often than not.
DAMN. still falls short of being a better album than To Pimp a Butterfly if only because it doesn’t feel as cohesive and doesn’t challenge me enough, for lack of a better turn. I’m sure the lyrics here are just as potent and relevant as those on his last album, but To Pimp a Butterfly changed the way I listen to rap, if not all music. It set a new bar.
(I should mention here that I’ve only listened to Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City a couple of times and I still need to give Section.80 a spin, so sorry for the lack of comparisons to that album. I’ll get my shit together soon, I promise.)
I’m a big fan of revival fusion, especially in hip-hop, and To Pimp a Butterfly masterfully merged jazz and hip-hop, not unlike what Kanye’s The College Dropout did with soul or Chance’s Coloring Book did with gospel. I don’t know enough to know whether or not this had been done before or how prominent it is within the hip-hop or jazz communities, but it continues to blow my mind to this day. I’m fairly confident in asserting that if these trends exist, no one takes it to the level Kendrick does. It was nice to have this revisited on “FEAR.”, which felt almost like a b-side from To Pimp a Butterfly.
Kendrick also gets a shout-out for provoking a reaction I didn’t know I had for anything besides Chance’s “No Problems”, and that’s “DNA.” had me dancing like an idiot in the shower 5 seconds into the song. Right away I knew Kendrick had done it again, even if I was a little disappointed he didn’t really find a new angle to his production. “HUMBLE.” comes close to this, but more provokes a bounce than an all out dance.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the collaboration with U2 went on “XXX.”–I respect U2, but I don’t really have an opinion of their music. I like a handful of their songs well enough, but never give them any time of any day. I feel like Kendrick is giving me permission to investigate their music a bit further, especially their newer releases. I know a lot of people were angry with how U2 released Songs of Innocence, but they have Kendrick’s ear; and so like a confused 12 year old who glams onto whatever my idols support, I’m going to give U2 another chance because Kendrick gave them a chance. Not that working with one of the largest bands in the history of rock or music is really giving said band a chance, but you know what I mean.
I’ve rambled long enough–go forth (be conquered), give this a listen, and get on the hype train or get the fuck out of my personal space, cause I’m all aboard and don’t have time for your negativity (I mean if you don’t like the album you don’t like the album taste is subjective but know in your heart of hearts that you’re wrong and I’m forever judging you).
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