The music world is still reeling from the one-two punch Kendrick Lamar just landed—capping the first weekend of Coachella Sunday night with a powerful, theatrical performance after unleashing his fourth album Damn. on Good Friday. Put them together and they cement Lamar’s status as the most compelling hip-hop artist of his era.
Compared to the robust funk of 2015 smash To Pimp a Butterfly, Damn. is stark and pointed, raw and emotive. Its songs sometimes sound simple, but each track is densely packed with feeling and philosophy; it’s all in his words. Lamar bounces confidently along with a Mike Will Made It beat on “DNA” and trades hazy verses with Rihanna on “Loyalty.” His wordplay on “Element” and “Humble” is especially elevated, even for him. And he fearlessly dives into religion and politics before concluding with an almost unbelievable personal story on “Duckworth.”
Somehow Damn. feels forceful yet free, possibly Lamar’s most comfortable work yet—even if it’s not supposed to make you comfortable.