Its 11:00 Central time and I am in Jackson MS, on the greyhound making my way to Louisiana. I haven’t realized that it was midnight Eastern Time meaning it was April 14th back home. Also Meaning Kendrick Lamar’s new album DAMN had just dropped. Luckily the bus had wifi, so now I was on the hunt to download it by any means necessary, word to Malcolm. I found it, but problem was it was that it was only on iTunes and streaming on Spotify which I had neither. Damn… (HA). Both my phone and tablet had little to no space on either which disallowed me from downloading the apps to listen to this much needed medicine. I was considering deleting baby pictures, videos of my kids, anything to get this album. Hell the kids can make more videos! This is Kendrick man! I had to sit through the “More Life” hype. I evn had to sit through the hype of Future’s new albums. After J. Cole’s “ 4 Your Eyez Only,” I had nothing but a some fire Royce 5’9” verses over trap beats. Other than that I had nothing musically to look forward too. Then in March, Kendrick released “The Heart Pt 4,” and this man was giving me bar after bar with no words wasted. Never mind the possible Big Sean diss, Kendrick sounded like a man on a mission. As he ended his onslaught of not only any “Scared Lil Bitch,” but the English language as a whole. He delivered a date that I thought was damn near Christmas.

“Yall got till April the 7th to get yall shit together…”~ k DOT

Could it be? Was this going to be the date Cornroll Kenny reclaimed his status as the King Kunta over all he lyrically owns? April 7th came and I woke up like I had presents under the tree. I’m 29 years old, I haven’t seen presents since high school. But that morning you would have thought I was in first grade all over again. But to my surprise…No album. I was sick, BUT he gave us the REAL date with a track list leaving so much to the imagination. Followed by a meme worthy questionable album cover. Humble had only been out a few days and I already knew the whole song by heart (Don’t Judge Me). Now he was giving visuals, song names and an actual date. April 14th.

Back to the bus trip, I didn’t get the album that night because it had yet to be released on Amazon Music. I woke up in Louisiana to my best friend and even my wife taunting me and telling me how good it was. First LeBron the day before and now this? I went through the whole day on my final destination to Houston constantly checking my tablet to see if it had hit yet. By nightfall my dream had come true!! There it was just waiting for me like a Grand Slam from Denny’s. I almost cracked my tablet hitting the purchase button so hard. I didn’t have much time so I skimmed through it just to get a feel for it. I damn near caught whiplash just from DNA, I had to set my tablet down so I could go about my night. I promised I would give it a full listen in the morning… Let’s just say I have yet to listen to ANYTHING else since that next morning.

 

To truly understand Kung Fu Kenny’s message you have to understand his growth by album. Every album has a character, and each character has a name. GKMC was created by K. Dot, a story about a young man’s day in Compton, as we witness the innocence being stolen from him as each song take the stage in your speakers. In TPAB he becomes King Kunta, voice of the voiceless, defender of melanin. But much like his last album you get to understand Kendrick as a human. Just another side. His inner Mandela, his inner Pac. T’Challa Lamar. Even on Untitled Unmastered, which was just a compilation of songs. Kendrick came with the braids, and became Cornroll Kenny.

Kendrick’s smooth personality meshed well with the album. Basically, King Kunta with a more melodic soul. It is probably one of the best easy listening albums you can have. Picture a lyrical D’Angelo or a Bilal with bars. Now he is mature, more confident and ready to bare his full soul, and also put his peers on notice that his is back. As he becomes Kung Fu Kenny, DAMN is the chance to know who Kendrick Duckworth is, what makes him tick at this point in his life. This album maybe his most personal album yet. The overall message in this album is humility, knowing who you are, and having confidence. Those who are on the path of finding themselves, Kendrick becomes a tour guide of his own findings and feelings. In hopes that you may do the same, also in hopes for you to understand who he is becoming as a man. At the same time he doesn’t compromise his hip hop roots, and delivers bars upon bars through each song as only he can. He is able to show his bravado with songs like DNA, HUMBLE, and ELEMENT. He illustrates a personal journey of soul searching on songs like LOVE, FEEL, and FEAR. Only to cap it off with a tale that would make storytellers like Nas and Slick Rick stand and clap with DUCKWORTH.

“MY left stroke just went viral!!!”

There are a few songs I wanted to dissect to further prove my point, I will start off with HUMBLE. The beat is an automatic dive into the deep end. The first bar or two Kendrick begins “Humbly” speaking of his syrup sandwich days and getting over with people with fake money to get by. From then on his confidence kicks in and he begins to drink Kool-Aid flavored D’USSE’. Also letting the world know he could quit now and still be the greatest. The competition is warned that fronting on “Man-Man” is a no no. Kenny is clearly feeling himself and he has every right. I mean “this is that Grey Poupon, that Avion, that Ted talk.” The most polarizing part was obviously the “Photoshop, stretch mark” line. Me personally I felt that he was celebrating his love for the natural woman, especially in a genre where IG Models rule videos. Apparently feminist didn’t see it that way. There is nothing wrong saying what kind of girl or guy you like. But of all the lines in current hip hop, this one has feminist in an uproar? Because he loves a natural woman, the only argument is that they think they have, is they feel he is demanding the woman to look the way he wants. Stating he loves a “Humble” woman. But when other state that “My Bitches is Bad and Bougee” no one bats an eye. What bothers me more than anything is the hypocrisy of it all. Plus to be honest, they backlash didn’t stop the song from debuting number two on the Billboard. The first rap song since 2010.

In DNA, he explains the positive and negative genetic make-up that would make a Kendrick Lamar. The Loyalty, Royalty, Realness. Even the Poison, pain, and that Cocaine quarter piece. The 808 looms beautifully with Kenny’s persistent flow. Also letting you know what has created the complex rhymer from his early days to the present. As the beat changes, you hear the voice of news anchor Geraldo Rivera give his negative views on Kendrick’s lyrics, which becomes just a segue into another banger as Kendrick lyrically flies through with such veracity. If you listen close of enough, the hidden gem is the Rick James sample in the background with him screaming “Give Me Some Ganja!” The video only makes the song better as you see Kendrick in his Kung Fu gear and chains, lyrically battling with a racism detective. Played by Don Cheadle.

In FEEL he strips down to show you his soft and his uncomfortable side. He speaks on losing focus, and his patience. He shows that his anti-social side sometimes gets the best of him and he feels the world is going to end. He turns his attention to shutting out family and friends and removing himself. One of the phrases you hear throughout the album is “Aint nobody prayin for me,” in this song that very phrase is echoed continuously. He speaks about injustice, death, and the constant problems of the world. The first verse of LOVE is really reminiscent of 50 Cent’s “21 Questions,” asking if things went south would his lady still be around. You see a loving, romantic side in this song he probably made for his lady. In FEAR Kendrick turns back the clock of a young boy with a black mother, constantly on his case. I been there, everything that he said in that first verse, my mother has said the majority of those things to me.  I got a lot of threats and whooping’s in my day. Then he talks about the many ways a young black boy can meet death, whether it’s the wrong colors, house party shootings, and of course the police. The fears that a black boy has coming up in bad neighbors.

DUCKWORTH is probably my favorite song on the album. He talks about his boss TDE’s Anthony Tiffith in his gang banging days, crossing paths with Kendrick’s father. Top Dog was plotting to rob the KFC where Kendrick’s father had worked. But Ducky with a background of his own knew who to keep Top Dog and his boys at bay with free chicken and biscuits. It eventually worked and no harm was done on either side. 20 years later that very same gang banger is the CEO of a record company and gives a young Kendrick and chance. He learned that Kendrick was the son of the guy who would hook them up with free food a KFC. Showing that even hoodlums have soul and compassion and how things could have took a negative turn that affected all three of them.

If TPAB hadn’t set Kendrick among hip hops elite, then DAMN without a doubt has. He shows his true colors, without crossing over, and showing his versatility lyrically. The production isn’t jazzy like the last album. 9th Wonder, Alchemist, Mike Will Made-it. Plus his in house producer Soundwave. It’s more of a hard hitting brash production with some smooth beats that only Kendrick can rap to. Drake may have more hits, but personally I don’t think any new generation rapper can out rap Kendrick Lamar. He is sneaking his way into top 10 all time and he is getting better with each album. The man makes classic guest verses, and can make anybody else’s song his. The most surprising guest on his own album was U2, something out of the norm for the average hip hop artist. But Kendrick goes against the norm with every creation. With this album here, it definitely the year of Cornroll Kung Fu K.Dot King Kunta Kendrick. All I gotta say is…DAMN.

 

Be sure to check out the brand new series, THE NITTY GRITTY SHOW

~Gene Stamper

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