EᗰᗷᖇᗩᑕIᑎG OᑎEᔕEᒪᖴ, ᑭᗩᖇT 4:
TᕼE ᖇEᐯEᒪᗩTIOᑎ Oᖴ ᖴEᗩᖇ, ᗪᗩᗰᑎ. - KEᑎᗪᖇIᑕK ᒪᗩᗰᗩᖇ
ᴀ ꜱᴜʀᴘʀɪꜱɪɴɢ ᴀɴᴅ ᴘʀᴇᴠɪᴏᴜꜱʟʏ ᴜɴᴋɴᴏᴡɴ ꜰᴀᴄᴛ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʜᴀꜱ ʙᴇᴇɴ ᴅɪꜱᴄʟᴏꜱᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴏᴛʜᴇʀꜱ.]
A revelation is an act from one to others. It isn’t like acknowledgment where one admits something, probably out of others’ confrontation, or admission, where one unwillingly admits something, also probably out of pressure. A revelation is an act that is a confession to others that was previously unknown to others, so it’s one side talking instead of a mutual conversation. This is why such an act can only be done by the one and only.
Kendrick Lamar is, and as always, one of the most polarizing characters in the hip-hop landscape. Whether or not you had any opinions on him, when he starts talking, you listen. Not only is his storytelling one of the best in the world right now, but the things he has to say is reflective and near profounding. From Section .80 to untitled unmastered, Kendrick has been rapping about gang violence, addiction to alcohol and drugs, racial injustice, etc., aiming to be a man who rises to be the one that speaks up, while also hoping to let his music make people’s lives better. Although always talking about his own testimonies, Kendrick’s themes are often about the bigger picture. Yet on DAMN, Kendrick takes a backseat (freestyle) from his usual self and takes a greater look at his own mind. It’s extra untimely to not talk about social issues, especially in a Trump-led America. He did talk about it, but not as the main theme as he usually would’ve. “New shit, new Kung Fu Kenny” at the start of the third track YAH. clearly illustrates that it ain’t unintentional.
"I got a greater purpose, God put something in my heart to get across and that's what I'm going to focus on, using my voice as an instrument and doing what needs to be done." - Kendrick Lamar in a Complex interview, 2014
It is at DAMN. where Kendrick’s personal values and ideals are at their most revealing, and these values and ideals slowly uncover Kendrick’s inner fears. From the aforementioned YAH.’s or GOD.’s religious references, confidence on ELEMENT. or HUMBLE. where Kendrick hints at his intention to call out his peers in the hip-hop genre, determination to combat sin in biblical definitions on PRIDE. or LUST., or even pursuit of safety on LOYALTY. or FEAR., nearly every song hints at a revelation of fear. Fear of falling into sin, fear of the ascent of many rappers that threatens his place, fear of sinning and fear of death, this album not only makes listeners say DAMN., as in awe of the music itself, this album also makes Kendrick say DAMN., after the amount of emotional confession he’s made.
Kendrick is at a place of high status, there’s no doubt about that. Hence why there’s a sense of power and authority from his rapping, yet Kendrick’s never been this high-handed. To me, Kendrick’s trying to emphasize more on his greatness to others, to cover the evergrowing fear he has, on tracks like DNA. or HUMBLE., two of the albums’ most popular songs, where we see Kendrick’s fiercest image yet. Yet, uncovering the slight curtain and digging deeper into the album, you can see Kendrick’s fears in their full force.
Kendrick Lamar, after all, is just human. Being touted as a savior or role model to many after his many critically and commercially acclaimed records, it’s easy to get caught up in these countless praises and forget that you’re not a man that is loved because of who you are, but because of what you seem like you can do. Being publicized as this Jesus-like image that would fight off social injustice, your imperfection would be magnified ten-fold, and Kendrick clearly understands. Ain’t nobody praying for him.
DAMN. is a beautiful album by Kendrick that at his peak status, exposes himself to his fears, a response that wasn’t done by many of his previous peers and perhaps led to their demise. It’s at this crossroads of being a hero and facing human imperfections like sins (pride, lust, fear) that causes him to have this massive revelation of emotional weaknesses because if he doesn’t, fate would prove to be unlucky for him. He understands this and does his best to concentrate on this matter, and concluding on one of his best tracks ever, DUCKWORTH.
DUCKWORTH. is a culmination of all of the album. An origin story of Kendrick that tells this shocking coincidence of Top Dawg nearly killing Kendrick’s father, blah blah blah, you know it already. The point of the song is to not only provide this shocking twist but to also show a story of fear. Fear when Kendrick’s father was held at gunpoint. Fear when Top Dawg could possibly get a jail sentence. Fear when Kendrick found out he could’ve lost his father. Different fears from different people due to the stakeholders involved, yet ultimately, all of them joined forces in the present day. A bit of a metaphor to what Kendrick’s facing right now, different fears, yet he hopes to live the beautiful experience we call life, a little bit more gracious and grateful. It is due to fears we have in life that makes us treasure every breathing second we have. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN., the revelation of fear.
Beats nice too.