Damn, there is more than what you see on the surface
“It’s in my DNA,” the new release by Kendrick Lamar questions nature vs nurture and stereotypes in this compelling video for his track “DNA” off of his new album Damn. It is a state of the art video that presents different points of view of racial stereotyping and other social issues. The joint is also controversial because he calls out the Fox News network and Geraldo Rivera and uses samples some of Rivera’s criticism and reaction to Lamar’s performance at the latest Grammy Awards ceremony.
So what’s the beef? Rivera complemented Lamar on being one of the best rappers around and remarked that he should be a better role model for youth. Lamar responded by sampling part of the lecture in the first two tracks of his new album Damn, “Blood” and “DNA.” Lamar expressed that he is in fact a role model because he sees hip hop as a way for young people express themselves in an appropriate way.
“Rightly to be great is not to stir without great argument, but greatly to find quarrel in a straw when honor’s at the stake,” according to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In other words, greatness usually causes some kind of controversy, and once there is controversy you still have to defend what you believe in.
If you listen to Lamar, and take him at face value, you don’t get it. To the casual listener tuning into the Grammy’s, you might think Lamar is all about the hip hop clichés: guns, lowriders, hoochies, and all the bling. Rivera has always been self-righteous and quick to react as if he were America’s moral guardian from what he sees on the surface. But the thing about Lamar is that his music is complex and shouldn’t be taken at face value.
Lamar uses irony, sarcasm, and other devices in his songs. Lamar’s vocal styles vary and contrast which make Damn interesting. He is like a character actor; each mix is sung from a different point of view and in some case several perspectives. Even on his older recordings, like “Swimming Pool,” where he discusses the topic of alcoholism, you have an example of his shape shifting like the silent film actor Lon Chaney Sr. aka the Man of a Thousand Faces.
Some of these lines are more hilarious than what you might hear at a comedy club. He brings to mind Ludacris, who also has a great sense of humor.
Lamar’s has an equally interesting musical palate. There are nice instrumental mixes from Damn, like the alternate tracks of “Duckworth” and “Loyalty.” The opening track of Damn, “Blood,” is mostly instrumental as well, and has the interesting textures of techno with a unique groove.
Lamar’s DNA Summer Tour starts in Chicago in July, goes through Colorado, Washington State before it goes to Vancouver, Canada. Then in August he hits the West Coast with several shows in LA. Some shows are already sold out.
People already predicting that Damn is going to be one of the biggest hit of 2017. I can already hear “Humble” throbbing from car stereos in the summer heat.