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)
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?