Shared from the 2017-04-17 Chattanooga eEdition

Music review

Kendrick Lamar is darn good on latest album

Kendrick Lamar is back with an album as bold and declarative as its title: “DAMN.” And while Lamar grapples with familiar subject matter — God, violence, survival and self-worth — the energy has shifted away from the jazz, funk-filled sound of his previous work.

The U2-assisted “XXX.” is one of the album’s most gripping tracks, and finds Lamar on the receiving end of a call from a friend, whose only son has been shot and killed. “He was lookin’ for some closure/ hopin’ I can bring him closer/ to the spiritual,” Lamar raps. “But I told him I can’t sugarcoat the answer for you / if somebody kill my son/ that mean somebody getting killed.”

And, then, like a punch to the gut, Lamar adds: “Ain’t no Black Power when your baby killed by a coward.”

The line is unexpected and, overall, “FEAR.” is brave, in that it puts Lamar in a position to be criticized, just as he was for lyrics from 2015’s hopefilled anthem “Alright.”

To his credit, Lamar continues to speak his mind, and his rawness is what makes “DAMN.” so damn good. When Lamar raps, “I’ll prolly die tryna buy weed at the apartments/ I’ll prolly die tryna diffuse two homies arguin/ I’ll prolly die, ’cause that’s what you do when you’re 17,” it’s hard not to be moved.

It’s clear that Kendrick Lamar isn’t perfect. But his latest set, “DAMN.,” gets pretty close.

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