64 thoughts I had while listening to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’

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Boy, am I glad I decided to write down my first impressions of this album, because it was nothing like what I expected, based off what I heard from “To Pimp a Butterfly” and “untitled unmastered.” And I have a LOT of feelings about it.

I’ll have a full review out of “DAMN.” whenever I’m able to calm down from this first listen and can compose real, coherent sentences again. But rumor has it Kendrick will be releasing another album tomorrow (technically later today), so we’ll see if there’s even time to breathe before there’s something new to listen to again.

So here it is … 64 thoughts I had while listening to Kendrick’s “DAMN.”


“BLOOD.”

1. I’m so excited for the album but I still can’t get over the cover. It looks likes Kendrick just got off a 12-hour shift at Waffle House where he witnessed at least two people attempt to urinate on the floor (and one who successfully did).

2. Intro to “BLOOD.” is giving me “Bohemian Rhapsody” vibes.

3. The old woman replies, “You have lost something. You’ve lost your life.” Savage, lady. He was just tryna help you pick something from the street.

4. Also, I lost 3 years off my life hearing the white Fox News man say “fo sho.”

“DNA.”

5. Damn it’s 0 to 60 going from “BLOOD.” to “DNA.” This. Beat. Bangs.

6. “I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA” is a much cooler slogan than Northwestern’s “AND is in our DNA.” Goddamn overachievers.

7. Although every white girl will probably be changing her Insta bio to “royalty inside my DNA” soon. Don’t say I didn’t warn y’all.

8. I got heart palpitations from Kendrick’s second verse. God DAMN.

9. Literally had to pause before the next song because I’m still recuperating.

10. Alyssa is me right now. 

“YAH.”

11. Okay, I got some water in me. Ready for “YAH.”

12. Is Kendrick singing?? I’m into it.

13. I love that he’s dragging Fox News and Geraldo Rivera for three songs straight.

14. It’s in these moments where I wish I knew more about Christianity. References to things like “Deuteronomy” just go over my head.

15. Seriously, it was like 10th grade when I figured out that Jesus and God are kinda the same dude. Actually, are they?

“ELEMENT.”

16. LOL @ “Kung Fu Kenny.” I’m imagining a skinny white child trying to split a brick into two but breaking his hands in the process.

17. I can’t hear “element” without thinking of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” I wonder what kind of bender Kendrick would be. Probably fire?

18. Thus far, the album sounds more commercial than TPAB, but not in a bad way. The beat on “ELEMENT.” for example, is more mainstream and catchy than his previous stuff.

avatar fire

just like when kendrick dropped this HOT album !!

“FEEL.”

19. Loving the production on “FEEL.” Moody but energetic at the same time.

“LOYALTY.”

20. Also can’t believe “LOYALTY.” is the first collaboration between Rihanna and Kendrick.

21. Maybe he waited until she wasn’t with Drake to do something?

22. Speaking of commercial hits, I’m thinking this and “HUMBLE.” will be the breakouts from the album.

23. His flow is effortless, and Riri’s verse fits well with his vibe.

24. So “geeked up” means getting high off meth, cocaine or ecstasy. Interesting. Although if I used it I doubt people would think I was referring to anything besides getting a new calculator :/

25. Don’t kill me for saying this, but I’m much more into this album’s production than TPAB’s (at least initially).

“PRIDE.”

26. The parts in “PRIDE.” where Kendrick’s voice is pitched up make me imagine him taking helium from a balloon, which might not be the intention.

27. Apparently Steve Lacy recorded this beat on an iPhone? And when he found out Kendrick included it on the album, he “screamed with joy.” That’s actually adorable.

28. I can barely take a non-blurry photo on the first try with my phone, and this dude is recording beats on it.

29. That probably says more about me than him though, huh?

30. Anna Wise is the best. Never let her go, Kendrick.

“HUMBLE.”

31. Speaking of Grey Poupon, Vox has an interesting video about why rappers have referenced this mustard SO much in the past.

32. Props to Kenny though, for not rhyming it with “coupon.”

33. I wonder if Instagram “comedians” are going to use “sit down, be humble” in their next 100 videos. And I wonder if it’ll be lowkey misogynistic (hint: probably).

“LUST.”

34. Here, they’re sampling a song by an artist named Rat Boy.

35. Just imagine: “Everyone, meet Batman’s new sidekick: ‘Rat Boy.’”

36. “Wake up in the mornin’/Thinkin’ ’bout money, kick your feet up/Watch you a comedy, take a shit” …

37. Wow Kendrick, how did you know my Saturday routine?

38. Was that TMI?

39. Whatever, girls poop. Grow up.  

“LOVE.”

40. Zacari’s voice is so smoooooth.

41. Tory Lanez is probably crying himself to sleep over not getting on this track.

42. Funny enough, Tory has a song called “LUV.”

43. This track is nothing like what I’ve heard from Kendrick before. It’s kinda awesome.

44. It’s a great blend of hip-hop and alternative R&B.

“XXX.”

45. There’s a U2 feature ????? Whaaaattttt.

46. Kendrick keepin us on our toes with these unexpected guests.

47. The flow switch, when it goes from “You know we all love him” to “Yesterday I got a call,” is insane. 

“FEAR.”

48. Whereas “XXX.” is overtly political, “FEAR.” is deeply personal.   

49. Here, he references the titles of some previous tracks on the album: “Fear of losin’ loyalty from pride,” “fear that my humbleness is gone,” etc.  

50. This song is almost 8 minutes longgggg. My attention span is half of that.

51. Am I the worst?

52. Thematically, the song is really interesting, but I probably won’t be listening to it on a regular basis (see: #51).

“GOD.”

53. “GOD.” also starts off totally unlike what I expected from Kendrick.

54. If you would’ve told me a year ago that this is what the new Kendrick album would sound like, I’d be 

shooketh

55. I’m shooketh at the moment, actually.

56. At first I thought “work it JT” was a reference to Justin Timberlake, but evidently it’s from the film “The Five Heartbeats.” #themoreyouknow

57. But I guessing “I’m sellin’ verses, Jay Z, watch me work it, JT” is actually referring to the former ramen-noodle-headed, NYSNC heartthrob? 

58. Yoooo some Genius commenter said this sounds like a Drake song. I kinda … agree? Is it intentional though? What if Kendrick is deliberately imitating Drake’s flow and his habit of calling himself “6 God” ? Hmmm …

“DUCKWORTH.”

59. The manipulation of Ted Taylor’s “Be Ever Wonderful” is amazing.

60. HA, apparently “DUCKWORTH.” tells the true story of how Top Dawg (founder of TDE, Kendrick’s label) almost killed Kendrick’s dad, Ducky, who worked at KFC.

61. And Top Dawg was nice to Ducky because Ducky would give him free chicken and biscuits when he went to KFC.

62. Now that’s what I call conflict prevention.  

63. The song (and thus album) ends with Kendrick’s first line from the first song, “BLOOD.”: “So, I was takin a walk the other day …”

64. I need to lie down.


 

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Hot and Cold: Week of 2/29

Welcome to Hot and Cold, where each week, I talk about the best and worst things that happened in that week. I decided to include stuff from Sunday, Feb. 28, because why not, it’s my damn blog.

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HOT:

1. Chris Rock at the Oscars
I want to give Chris Rock all the credit in the world for not holding back and really going to town on Hollywood and its insidious anti-blackness. It takes nuance to be able to point out that the racism du jour isn’t the overt racism we’re used to; it’s the kind of racism where “the nicest, white people on Earth,” who are all gung ho about Obama, refuse to hire black people.

2. Kendrick Lamar’s new album
“Untitled unmastered” is basically composed of stuff that didn’t make it on “To Pimp a Butterfly,” but damn, even Kendrick’s leftovers are 1000x better than Tyga on his best day (which isn’t saying much). If you want to know my exact thoughts on it, please read my review here.

*End of shameless plug.*

3. Pinot Noir from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is a thing now
I wasn’t aware that there was even a demand for Titus Andromedon’s pinot noir to actually be sold, but sometimes the best thing in life is shit you don’t expect. It’s 25 bucks, which is 20 bucks above my alcohol budget (don’t knock $5 wine until you try it. It doesn’t smell like feet. That much), but I’m a sucker for packaging and pop-culture references so I must have it.

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COLD:

1. Chris Rock at the Oscars 

Now I want to solidly smack Chris Rock with a shoe for that Asian joke (and Sacha Baron Cohen for even remotely implying that Asians are comparable to minions, a.k.a. the bane of my existence). Bringing out this old trope of Asians being good at math is not only wildly unoriginal, it’s indicative of the fact that many people claiming to be progressive still have blind spots when it comes to including people of other ethnicities. While it’s atrocious that films featuring black people are not given the accolades that they deserve, what about Hispanics and Asians? Are we not “people of color,” just like black people? Do we not deserve for our stories to be told? Are we not routinely skipped over for roles and instead have white people play us instead (let’s not forget the “Avatar” disaster)?

When you talk about people of color and only include black people, while making jokes about Asians, you are pretending to be progressive when in reality you are still excluding many voices that should also be heard. We all deserve better.

[EDIT 5/1: *shameless plug #2* I actually wrote an article in my school paper about the Oscars and whitewashing, so check it out here: bit.ly/1QweJcx. It also includes a more nuanced take on Chris Rock’s role in suppressing Asian voices, which I realized after writing this “Hot and Cold” post!]

LUKEWARM:

1. Peyton Manning is Retiring
I only include this as a way to convince myself that I’m remotely cultured about football. Truth be told, the only time I’ve ever watched Peyton Manning was in that SNL sketch, and he was so good in that I don’t really care what he did on the field. I mean, I barely understand what a quarterback is, and it was only recently that I learned that halfback is a real position (is halfback twice as important as quarterback, since it’s twice as much as 25 percent?? Someone help me). Adios, Peyton. Maybe I’ll see you in a Bud Light commercial one day.

I love sport.

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Until next week, folks.

 

Rachel Reviews: Kendrick Lamars’ ‘untitled unmastered’

 

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When I heard, “What did the Asian say?,” I immediately looked up from the textbook I was “reading,” snapped my head up and wondered, “What did I have to say?”

This referral to outside wisdom is one way “untitled unmastered” differs from Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” and also one reason why I enjoyed this album. Since the tracks are those left over from TPAB recording sessions, they still explore many of the same themes — self-exploration, condemning the superficial, connecting to your roots — but the plea to other minority groups in “untitled 03 | 05.28.2013” and the minimal production were welcome differences from the last album. I liked the sparseness of “untitled 01 | 08.19.2014,” the joy of “untitled 06 | 06.30.2014” was a standout and the grooviness of “untitled 08 | 09.06.2014” was so infectious it got me to say words like “grooviness.”

“Untitled unmastered” may not be as cohesive as TPAB (for a reason), but its strength lies in its sparse production, which lets Kendrick’s masterful lyricism do the talking and reminds us that this is an artist at the top of his game, who’s still always striving to be better.


 

  1. untitled 01 | 08.19.2014

Although the first track off the album feels apocalyptic, it’s purely from the power and urgency conveyed through Kendrick’s voice, as the production is relatively minimal. His lyrics paint the unsettling picture of buildings plummeting and ground shaking, “swallowing young woman with a baby, daisies, and other flowers burning in destruction.” He has to answer to the big man upstairs: What has he done in the world to justify going to Heaven? Is “To Pimp a Butterfly” enough? Is anything he’s doing enough? Or is he just stuck, always “running in place trying to make it to church”?

  1. untitled 02 | 06.23.2014

Katt Williams has made a whole career from exploring the attitude and style of the “pimp,” but here Kendrick explores the illusions of “pimping and posing” and how the glamour and fame he’s come to know contrasts with the imagery of “pistol and poverty” from the place he comes from. If this lyrical tension isn’t enough for you to sift through, Kendrick’s flow transition in the second verse might do the trick. What a Slick Rick (I’m trying to make that expression a thing) move — effortless and cooool. After all, it’s Cornrow Kenny. How could he not be cool?

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  1. untitled 03 | 05.28.2013

Asians are wise, y’all. We’re tellin Kendrick to be peaceful, meditate and “think of your health.” You’re welcome. Many of his songs deal with looking within himself, but I enjoy that he’s turning to other people and other cultures for guidance. 

  1. untitled 04 | 08.14.2014

Remind me not to listen to this when I’m in bed. I don’t need Voldemort whispering at me while I’m trying to sleep, thank you very much. But apparently Kendrick’s whispering here is meant to represent the government, so the creepiness works. While the state is telling people that they’re to blame for their troubles (“talk about the charge you got…”), SZA’s beautiful, soulful singing represents the black community’s frustrations at being lied to and not knowing what to do. The mantra now is “head is the answer” — maybe the new “knowledge is power” — highlighting the importance of thinking for yourself. Or I might be overthinking it, and as one Rap Genius commenter eloquently pointed out, “he’s actually talking about getting dome.” Whatever works, man.

  1. untitled 05 | 09.21.2014

With lyrics like “drowned inside the lake outside away you flow,” I couldn’t help but think about Frank Ocean’s “Swim Good” and the lines: “I’m about to drive in the ocean, I’ma try to swim from somethin’ bigger than me.” Both songs explore the theme of escapism and our tendency to flee instead of dealing with our problems and the problems of society like “genocism and capitalism.” Is self-determination and control “a mirage or a facade”? Can we really control anything?

  1. untitled 06 | 06.30.2014

Not since “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” have I thought that a Kendrick album could be, to put it simply, a good time. Of course the album dealt with heavy stuff, but it was also just fun to listen to and something I could jam to in my car. And TPAB, although culturally and lyrically beautiful and important, was not always easy to listen to (as it should be), with the exception of a few songs like “i” and “King Kunta.” But after hearing the sixth song from this album, I feel like I can confidently say that “untitled unmastered” returns to the fine form of easy listening, without being as annoying as muzak. The production throughout is easy, breezy, beautiful, Covergirl. And this song, which expresses the importance of individuality over music that seems vaguely OutKast-like, is fun at its finest.

  1. untitled 07 | 2014-2016

To be honest I’d give this song 5/5 stars just for the line, “Santa’s reindeer better have some ass.” The imagery by itself is gold. But the rest of the track isn’t bad either, from the trap-sounding Part 1, all the way to the low-key third section where it’s just Kendrick and his team “jamming out” and brainstorming ideas for songs. We rarely get to see goofy, relaxed Kendrick, so it’s a nice thing to hear. Also, apparently Swizz Beatz’s son Egypt produced this song, so everyone else can officially stop sending out their resumes and accept that 5-year-olds will be taking over their jobs.

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  1. untitled 08 | 09.06.2014

I’m a little embarrassed that “This is groovy!” was the first thing that popped into my head when I heard the intro to this song, as I’m neither a character in “That 70’s Show” nor outrageously high (at this moment). But I couldn’t deny it: This song is bringing the funk. The music is bouncy and light and wouldn’t be out of place in a Yoplait commercial where there’s a bunch of white people in sweaters eating yogurt with the same enjoyment as if they were having sex. But I’d definitely prefer not to hear it in that context.


 

In keeping with the name of this blog, “The Hot Pot,” I thought I’d keep the whole temperature theme going. Gimmicky, yes, but refined has never been in my wheelhouse. Why not steer into the skid, huh?

Scale: 1 (frozen) – 10 (boiling)

Rating: 9: Satan’s butthole

I debated whether that’s actually colder than boiling, but anything involving the words “Satan’s butthole” is probably not an exact science.

All in all, the album is introspective and powerful, but Kendrick does all the talking and the production takes a back seat. That doesn’t stop it from being funky once in a while. He’s also exploring a few new territories while still tapping into the themes that we’re familiar with. I can’t wait for his next project!