I remember so many drives spent listening to Good Kid M.A.A.D City and To Pimp a Butterfly. I would say these albums mean a lot to me, but that would be insufficient praise. Luckily, to some of the few reading this, I won’t have to explain.
K-Dot is an international phenomenon. When he signed off on The Heart Part 4 with ‘yall got til April the 7th to get yall shit together’, the internet started buying pooper-scoopers. This included my friends. That day in March, several thousand miles away from Compton, a few of of us reached for our phones and pinged each other ‘Yo new Kendrick’, ‘so good’, etc. A bunch of Indian dudes listening to an American hip-hop millionaire is not at all new, but this sort of anticipation among those with whom Kendrick shares almost no part of his landscape is a sign of some sort of sorcery. At least that’s what I think.
Anyway, The Heart Part 4 comes, The Heart Part 4 goes; I like it, but don’t replay it too much (sorry god). A week later, HUMBLE. drops, and I’m reaching for the shit-sack. If March was a month in the doldrums, all of April was guaranteed to be about ‘bich bihombo’ and ‘my left stroke just went viral’. Every day between HUMBLE. and DAMN. was hype day, checking for updates online, reading comments, the Great Disappointment of April 7th when we realised there was to be nothing more than a pre-order button until the 14th, and then finally, DAMN.
Ten-odd days later, I can confirm that DAMN. has repeatedly blown my mind to bits. I keep discovering new favourites. I’m currently tripping on LOVE. (FEAT. ZACARI.) (downtempo, haunting, autotune). Before that, DNA. (banger, spare, raw). ELEMENT. (james blake, groovy, macho), FEEL. (slow, fast, self-centred), LOYALTY. (rihanna, pop, summer song), and of course HUMBLE. have all occupied the position of favourite. I’m certain DUCKWORTH. (climax, sing-about-me-i’m-dying-of-thirst-y) will be next. XXX. (FEAT U2.) is close too.
A friend told me about the number of reviews he has seen on his twitter feed talking about how difficult it has been to review DAMN. He’s so good, most of those reviews explain, that it makes the job of reviewing it difficult, especially in the context of the zeitgeist, other albums that form a part of it, his previous efforts included. Something similar has been on my mind. Truth is, you don’t need a review of a Kendrick Lamar album from me. Those who wanted to listen to it already have. Those who haven’t are probably not that interested in listening to the album, and my saying how good it is musically, lyrically, thematically, &c., won’t convince them. So something of this sort is unlikely to lead to some sort of discovery.
Maybe you’re looking for critical analysis. And that ends up being troublesome too. I think most music-savvy people online, including music journalists and music enthu junta like me, just don’t have the capacity to be objective when it comes to a Kendrick Lamar album. By this point, all the good times I have had listening to his music, all the bad times that have been made easier listening to King Kunta, or Hood Politics, or i, or Sing About Me I’m Dying Of Thirst, or Backstreet Freestyle, or Money Trees, or any of his other songs, all the hype articles and #hype comments, have made it hard for me to be objective. So I can’t even pretend to ever write a critical review of DAMN.
In a world where refreshing the news usually leads to head-scratching, anger, or outright sorrow, it’s great that once in a while refreshing the news means you read something along the lines of ‘New Kendrick Lamar single out’. On the 14th of April, every corner of the internet was occupied by fans of music talking about how much they loved music. And how lucky they were to be alive in a time when they got to see DAMN. drop.
The internet, or at least my internet, is not an optimistic place. So often it feels like we, and when I say we, I mostly mean I, don’t recognise how lucky we are to be alive, as humans, with opposable thumbs, and intelligence, and for most people reading this, no landmines, sarin gas, superpredator, active war zone, or immediate threat anywhere near us. Truth is, when soldiers are killed, or civilians are bombed, we don’t ‘all suffer together’, we simply aren’t ‘all bereaved’. Some suffer more than others, some are more bereaved. It’s self-centred to claim otherwise. It’s naïve to refuse to see that we are lucky. Being progressive-minded doesn’t change that. And it doesn’t change the fact that calling conservative-minded people assholes online is a bad thing to do.
When I saw how optimistic my corner of the internet was when DAMN. dropped, it helped me realise how whiny that corner has made me. It’s the same corner of the internet that moans about everything Trump does. It’s a corner with little about India’s troubles, or what we’re getting right. I’ve heard the words ‘bubble’, ‘echo’, and ‘chamber’ so often now, but all those clichés turn out to be true.
On those lines, a parting thought. Despite reading every comment about DAMN. for a week, relating to Justin Hunte, Big Quint, or Complex or whoever else when they spoke about the album, I feel I truly enjoyed DAMN. most on two occasions: one, when I was listening to it on the highway, far away from the internet, and two, when I listened to it later that day with a couple of music-nerd friends who were as excited as I was to listen to it for the nth time.
There’s a whole world out there. The internet is just a part of it. So maybe there’s another reason to read this. This isn’t a review. This is just a way for a few of us to acknowledge that we were all alive when DAMN. dropped, and it was great. It’s the same reason I watched all those videos online, and read all those comments. To relate. That’s the optimism I want to add to my corner of the internet.
Maybe everybody knows these things already. Maybe I’m the only moron just discovering them. Some camels take longer to reach the water. I hope I have.