GLDI: Somebody once asked me what on earth a girl like me knows about an album like DAMN.
It’s a fair question. Many of us love our favorite records because of their relatability, and I fully understand that I don’t look like someone who could really relate to lyrics like, “I know murder, conviction, / burners, boosters, burglars, ballers, dead, redemption, / scholars, father’s dead with kids.”
I wouldn’t dream of making a case for things Kendrick and I have in common. But I did feel I was being asked a bigger question: “What draws you to this record?”
My response was, Kendrick tells a GREAT story.
This, in so many words, is a distillation of how I perceive DAMN. – one insanely well-executed concept record, composed of 14 equally compelling stories, relayed by one insanely talented narrator. With this album Kendrick wasn’t releasing singles, he was making statements. The nature of that statement changes depending on who you talk to. Some say it’s an album symbolizing God’s judgment, others say it’s a time piece covering the modern black-vs-white experience, there are a hundred other theories in between. In all cases, DAMN. marries past roots with future promise, both in terms of where it lives within the hip hop genre and in what each individual song conveys conceptually. One thing we can all agree on is DAMN.’s value; it doesn’t just have great content, it’s a piece that feels good to listen to.
Part of this is because Kendrick himself is easy to listen to. His lyrical mastery, distinctive cadence, and percussive dictation spans across an impressive larger body of work. Where DAMN. differs is in its poignancy. Underlying themes of love and lust, sin and piety, fragility and power, politics and religion all coalesce into one sonically delicious place on this record, making for a harsh reality of soul-reflecting soup for the listener. Even better, Kendrick lays out multiple parties’ demons across all 14 tracks, and that’s what makes the album so hypnotic. It’s condemnatory and it’s introspective. Raw and refined. It’s about you and it’s not about you. DAMN.’s perfection is that it can be interpreted in more than one way, but the words carry the same gravity in all cases – a quality that only the most special pieces of music tend to have.
This is not an argument for DAMN.’s universality. In fact, perhaps the most exhilarating part about DAMN. is that I may never understand this album on its deepest level. But from millions of listeners to Grammy committees to a Pulitzer board, one thing’s for sure: when Kendrick speaks the people listen, and perhaps none of his records are more deserving of our ears than DAMN.
GLDI Gives a Damn: GLDI’s “Sex is Cool” single is out now.