New Album Lifts Kendrick Lamar Even More

By Fekadu, Mesfin | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), May 16, 2017 | Go to article overview

New Album Lifts Kendrick Lamar Even More


Fekadu, Mesfin, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


Rappers who morph into superstars usually follow a well-traveled path that includes an overabundance of collaborations with other artists, radio-friendly pop hits, a bit of tabloid buzz and a conscious effort to eschew anything that might get too political or socially conscious.

Kendrick Lamar took a different path and emerged as the artist of the year, and it's one reason he's been elevated to superstar status with "DAMN.," which has dominated pop culture since its release last month. The album, a searing lyrical masterpiece that touches on societal breakdowns, politics, relationships and his vulnerability has spawned limitless think pieces, conquered the charts and has had some people calling him a new rap god.

Last year it was Beyonce and her epic "Lemonade" visual. This year it's Lamar and "DAMN."

"In a way, Kendrick is the opposite of a lot of what's popping right now. He's the other side of the pillow," said Tuma Basa, Spotify's global head of hip-hop.

Lamar was a platinum-selling, Grammy-winning star before "DAMN.," but the release of his third studio album has put him on another level. It started with his song "The Heart Part 4," which led to a viral guessing game about which rapper - or rappers - he was referring to on the powerful track featuring his signature sharp rhymes. A week later came "Humble," an insta-hit that topped Billboard's Hot 100 chart and launched a debate about women and butt injections, creating yet another pop culture moment for Lamar.

Two weeks later, "DAMN." finally is out, becoming another critically revered and commercially successful album for Lamar, and assimilating his stance as the reigning king of rap and pop music's unlikely juggernaut.

"If the forefathers of hip-hop had all gotten together and been like, 'Man, where do you hope the music will be in 30 years?' they would have wanted it to be a kid like Kendrick Lamar," said Peter Rosenberg, the veteran radio personality at Hot 97.

"That's what they would have wanted."

"DAMN." has sold more than 1 million equivalent albums in just three weeks, and it has spent all three weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's 200 albums chart. Nielsen Music says it's the second best-selling album this year, behind Ed Sheeran's "Divide," released March 3.

"The beauty of 'DAMN.' is that the more you listen to it, the more you like it. I think that's the quality of a great piece of work - whether it be an album or even a movie - the more you get into it, the more you like it. It means you're unpeeling layers. It's a complex piece of work that wasn't some cut-and-paste, copied (album)," Basa said.

Despite its pop star success, "DAMN." is one of the most highly regarded releases in hip-hop history, following Lamar's acclaimed albums, 2015's "To Pimp a Butterfly" and 2012's "good kid, m.A.A.d city."

"To me, he was everything that true hip-hop heads always wanted. …

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