3 Big Questions Before Kendrick Lamar Releases ‘DAMN.’
Kendrick Lamar's fourth full-length album didn't arrive last Friday, April 7, when the entire world expected it to drop—well, except for us—but after that roller coaster of excitement and disappointment finally ended, fans soon learned that the album was ticketed for wide digital release on Friday, April 14.
Over the past eight days, we've been given the title of the album (DAMN.), its featured guests (Rihanna, U2 and Zacari) and the full production credits, but despite this wealth of information, only one song from the album ("HUMBLE.") has been released to the public and that record—along with previous comments about the album "speaking on God"—has sparked more questions than we have answers.
To answer some of these questions, I touched based with Brendan Varan, Managing Editor at DJBooth; Yoh, Senior Editor at DJBooth; and Rae Witte, a veteran freelance contributor to outlets including Complex, High Snobiety, Motherboard and more.
What do the production credits on DAMN. say about the sonic direction Kendrick is taking on the album?
Brendan: It appears as though he’s stepping away (hopefully not completely) from the heavy funk-jazz fusion of recent projects with less Terrace Martin and no Flying Lotus or Thundercat, and stacking a more contemporary dream team of names he’s worked with but not heavily (save for Sounwave). I’m expecting a decent mix of bangers from Mike WiLL and Cardo and soul from 9th Wonder and Steve Lacy.
Yoh: Kendrick’s conglomerate of producers are cut from very distinctive clothes. Mike-WiLL is the trap banger, 9th Wonder brings the soul, BadBadNotGood is the experimental jazz, and Cardo is a wildcard that could go in any direction. My guess is DAMN. will be driven by soulful jazz, less experimental than TPAB but more intricate than untitled unmastered. Essentially, the best elements from those two albums but with a few bangers included.
Rae: First and foremost, Kendrick projects always deliver sonically. With producers like Sounwave and DJ Dahi on DAMN. we can expect more of that classic Kendrick sound, but I'm most excited for the tracks with Teddy Walton and Steve Lacy. GoldLink's "Crew" single with Brent Faiyaz and Shy Glizzy—produced by Walton—is one of the hottest records out right now. Whoever connected Teddy with those three deserves major props. As for Steve Lacy, he holds down Cali so hard and his new project is nearly flawless. That alone makes me excited for their track. Further, Lacy's sound is clearly heavily influenced by The Neptunes/Pharrell's production and Pharrell co-produced "Alright," so I really think this will be a great fit.
Fans on social media are, as the kids say, freaking out about Rihanna and U2 appearing as guest features. Name one artist Kendrick has yet to work with whose name you would have loved to see on the tracklist and why they'd make a great combination.
Brendan: Well, this new album has a Kendrick track solely produced by The Alchemist so that knocks one collab off my bucket list. Other than that, I’ll keep praying for the current rap king to create magic with the current R&B/pop king—Frank Ocean.
Yoh: Prince would’ve been amazing—he was almost on TPAB—especially after his passing last year. Andre Benjamin is another. Lyrically, I believe their styles would blend together like cold lemonade in the Sahara. Drake did it already, so the novelty is a bit worn, but I would love to hear Stevie Wonder’s harmonica mesh with Kendrick’s alien voice. Pure fire.
Rae: Janet Jackson, but Velvet Rope era. Even though it's from her self-titled Janet, the "Poetic Justice" sample still does it for me.
If DAMN. becomes Kendrick's third straight acclaimed album, does he become a legitimate contender for GOAT?
Brendan: Yes, it means he’s a contender. He’s not the GOAT (yet), but he is the best rapper alive.
Yoh: Kendrick arguably has the best discography out of all the mainstream rappers of his generation. DAMN. will only further solidify his greatness. If DAMN. delivers, we have to seriously consider Kendrick’s position as one of the greatest rappers of all time. I’m excited to see where he ranks once the album has been released and reviewed by both the media and the listening public.
Rae: BECOME?! He's been a legitimate contender.