The West Coast Revival Continues with DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar

TL; DR Haiku Review:

The West Coast is back, the LA-T-L-ien, the best rapper alive?

It isn’t every day that a hip-hop artist can follow up a near universally praised album like “To Pimp a Butterfly” with an album as good as DAMN.  I don’t buy the sophomore slump idea, but it is almost impossible to satisfy the hype and expectations that come with following an instant classic.  (I’m not counting the Untitled/Unmastered EP because it wasn’t a full-blown follow-up album)

Sit Down:

DAMN. finds Kendrick rapping furiously over understated beats and with choruses lacking hooks.  Like Nas, Kendrick doesn’t need a catchy chorus to get on the charts.  The more I think about it, the more I think people can classify Kendrick’s music as “thinking man’s hip hop” because it is introspective, honest, raw, and doesn’t feel produced or ghost written.  This is a major label release that sounds like something your favorite underground rapper put out.

Beyond that, I really appreciate all of the influences that make up DAMN.  The tracks bound with creativity and I hear Andre 3000 and mid-career Outkast, amongst other influences (for example see: Feel, Lust, XXX, Fear).  To be clear, I’m not saying that Kendrick is ripping anyone else off, I just love hearing the mix of influences that have been made into something fresh and new.

No doubt this is a must buy, download, or stream.

About that other thing:

In my opinion, forget about the comparisons or competition with Drake.  Forget about feuds, battles, cameos, singles, downloads, and sales figures.  I could care less about which artist said what about whom, but there really is no comparison between the two artists.  Drake might be more commercially marketable and palatable, but his music just isn’t as good.  Note: I don’t hate Drake, I just find most of his music to be catchy-yet-forgettable.

Drake had a moment when he released an introspective mixtape in his very early 20’s.  Since that time, he has achieved quite a bit commercially, but that doesn’t mean anything about his music itself.  Drake has a schtick, and he’s good at it.  Kendrick is more like Lil’ Wayne in that he is riding a wave of creativity that also leads to commercial success.  And just like Weezy could do no wrong in the mid-to-late 2000’s,  Kendrick can wear the ever-shifting “best rapper alive” title…for now.  Who knows?  Maybe Jay Electronica will finally drop his long awaited album and shake things up?

Thundercat Ho: Drunk

Drunk by Thundercat:

TL;DR Haiku Review:

Stream of consciousness; Michael McDonald, Kendrick? full of surprises

Make sure you have the right Jordans on:

First of all, we need to dispense with preconceived notions when an album features the great Kendrick Lamar along with Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald without a hint of irony.

Yes, that Michael McDonald croons like only he can on “Show you the Way” with Kenny Loggins like something you might remember from your mom’s minivan in the late 80’s or early 90’s.

This album is not really R&B, soul, funk, experimental or indie dance-pop, it is all of those things.  I think it is important not to limit ourselves with facile comparisons just because Thundercat has worked with hip-hop artists and features unique beats (like “Uh Uh” for example).   This album is not musically akin to artists like Kid Cudi or 88 Keys but more like if Andre 3000 recorded an indie album.  Actually, a lot of tracks of this album (see “Bus in These Streets” or “A Fan’s Mail”) would not sound out of place on a Phoenix or Of Montreal album for that matter.

Almost forgot:  “Walk on By” is a throwback styled slow jam that features Kendrick Lamar.  And like almost everything he touches these days, it is terrific.

Bittersweet Memories Cloud My Faded Mind:

For me, there is only one drawback to this album.  I like to imagine that a lot of these tracks started with Thundercat going stream-of-consciousness with a keyboard.  That approach really works for most of the songs on this album, but on others, I get the feeling that the lyrical content is not always as strong as the music and even the lyrical delivery.  I hate to knock creativity and I really do like this album, but with 23 tracks on one album, there are bound to be hits and misses.  (looking at you Wiz Khalifa)

Download it? Stream it?

I’d say download it, drunk or otherwise.  Sure you might hear a lot of it on Adult Swim (just a guess) but I think you can’t really go wrong with Thundercat.