“DAMN.” analyzes Kendrick’s DNA

Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” barrages the listener with hard-hitting lyrics and no time spared. This is one of Lamar’s shortest albums, with each track centralized around the lyrics rather than the beat. This opposes the traditional view on Lamar as an artist who writes deep-thinking “bangerz” without stripping-back the beat, making the tracks enjoyable on a passing-listen and on in-depth analysis.

Although more commercial than its predecessor, “DAMN.” just creeps out of the speakers with a mid-tempo flow gumming up the majority of the album. He says what he needs to say, clearly and without distraction, so that he can move on to the next track.

This isn’t to say the album doesn’t have a few “bangerz.” The teaser track for the album, “HUMBLE,” singlehandedly made most everyone think the whole album was going to be just as crazy.

“DNA” also was an intense track, sampling a part of Fox’s analysis of Kendrick’s BET performance bridging into a bombastic second verse. The majority of the album was a daunting listen, however. Just about any lyric you pull out and examine has layers of meaning ascribed to it.

I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me to digest the album and review it without being able to read the lyrics online. The tracks require a bit of study to really appreciate, especially “FEEL” and “PRIDE.”

“PRIDE” put a whole new spin on the following banger, “HUMBLE.” As a single, “HUMBLE” seemed as though it were an attack on someone else but within the context of the album it becomes clear that “HUMBLE” is an inward assault.

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins and Kendrick’s one of the best rappers alive, so recognizing his pride and addressing it is a challenge. Ironically, the track about pride is mellow and introspective, using vocal pitch variations to underline the contrast between his ideal of humility (high) and his action of pride(low).  This leads right into the concept theory that stuck with me. It begins with the first couple verses of the LP asking three simple questions; “Is it wickedness?” “Is it weakness?” and “Are you going to live or die?”

Do you choose wickedness (pride) or do you choose weakness (humility)? Also, notice how the order is wickedness and live or weakness and die.

Lamar describes the way he grew up with a character named Little Johnny. In Little Johnny’s world, all the successful people around him are rappers or gangsters who appropriate violence as the key to survival. Hence, wickedness is the only way to do away with weakness, to survive and succeed.

Lamar pulls this into his current rap career, addressing the juxtaposition of being a social justice rapper while also rapping about wicked things like murder and treating women like dirt. This helps to explain the musical direction he chose on “DAMN.”

He’s perhaps trying to lessen himself by retreating from success and revealing himself to the world through these internal struggles. Or perhaps he’s frustrated with the lack of reciprocity he has received for his social commentary, as he continually mentions throughout the album that “nobody is praying for me.”

“DAMN.” has taken flack for some of the experimental choruses and even some of the less experimental tracks like the radio-friendly “LOVE,” but I found each track enjoyable and pivotal in progressing the overall arch of the album. I rate “DAMN.” as an A- album.

 

Published in The Stallion on April 18, 2017.

What I’m looking for. Score (0-10) Examples of Scoring
Innovation 6 10- Creates entire genre.

8- Creates a new niche or sub-genre

6-pushes current genres limits

4- pushes their own limits

2-little change

Uniqueness (of either artist or album) 8 10-Never before seen (has influences still)

8-More than 3 unique qualities including sound, person, story, ect.

6- 2 unique qualities

4-1 unique qualities

2-Lowest possible score because everyone is unique :^)

Songwriting 8
Lyrics 9
Production 9 10- Perfect Balance

5- Over-produced more than not (or even under produced)

0- Sounds horrible

Theme 9 10-powerful theme throughout

5-theme but kinda sucks

0-no theme or organization

Length/Flow 8 10-Songs reinforce each other, album isn’t hard to listen to, and the transitions are smooth/appropriate

5- 2 of those thing

0-none of these things

Talent 10
Personal Enjoyment 7 10-peak enjoyment

5-indifferent

1-Couldn’t hate album more

82 90 max

BiRDPERSON band revitalizes GA emo

I first heard of BiRDPERSON through the recommendation of a friend. She had known the guitarist, Trey Wilson, from high school and thought they were pretty good, good enough to tell friends as well as share the band’s stuff on Facebook for everyone else. Typically, I’m a skeptical person when it comes to hometown bands. People tend to give a bit of leeway to these groups because they’re so close to home or because “they’re just finding their start” after existing for nearly three to four years and only putting out one record or so.

Now after I’ve built them up so high, BiRDPERSON really does bring a refreshing, punk energy to an otherwise lifeless and uninspired emo scene in hometowns across the state of Georgia. I spoke with guitarist and frontman, Aaron Cooler, to learn more about the group as well as their recently recorded EP, “The Michael Jordan of Baseball.”

BiRDPERSON is named after the character from the Adult Swim cartoon, “Rick and Morty,” and are based out of Statesboro, GA. Their HQ is the BiRDHAUS where they host house-shows. In fact, they’re planning a Hausfest for April 29 before they go on their May tour. “It’ll be the first time we’ve attempted something like this with so many people and bands.”

I was excited to learn what went into the creation of their latest EP, so I started by asking how they came up with the eccentric name they chose. “When we do our song titles, we sort of just write random descriptions we think are funny and that also are in line with the lyrical themes of the song. And when you say someone is the Michael Jordan of something it means they’re really good at whatever it is. ‘Michael Jordan of Baseball’ connects with the song because Michael Jordan sucked at baseball so it’s sort of about when you are feeling like you are not the best person you can be and you are just fucking up a lot.”

The songs they chose for “The Michael Jordan of Baseball” were four of the best out of ten or so songs they felt were finished enough to record. “Those four songs we thought were our best and were what fit together best. We still have six to record now that all have a unique sound to them. We’re expecting the next recordings to come out soon.”

“We do very collaborative songwriting. One of us will come up with a concept and then that’ll become their song to teach to each other. Whenever we’re working on a new song we all add our own taste and style to it. I tend to take care of most of the lyrics but the music is collaboratively composed.”

The dog on the cover the EP is actually Cooler’s Pitbull, Duchess and within the title track’s music video and single release cover art there is a Australian Shepard named Bear who is Cooler’s girlfriend’s dog. “They’re kind of our mascot. We’re big animallovers and so we thought it would be something cool and random to use for the art of the album. Our drummer did all the art with water-color and pens. He also has done some merch for us. It’s really nice since you don’t have to outsource your artists.” They plan to continue this aesthetic as their signature design in the future.

Being from a place with a fairly inactive music scene, BiRDPERSON developed a DIY attitude toward their work. “When we decided we wanted to start a band in Statesboro, we decided we would make stuff happen. Nobody was going to give it to us so we started doing house shows and things. A lot of people like our style so we kind of just made our own venue to play at and make the people who wanted to hear what we had to offer come to us.”

With the opening of the BiRDHAUS, Statesboro’s music scene has developed a great deal. Cooler attributes the growth to there being less drama in Statesboro. “Other scenes are having issues with jerks and there’s enough of that in a town like ours so we wanted to make a place where people aren’t going to be dicks to one another by not being exclusionary to artists.”

To close out the interview, I asked Cooler what he wanted people to take away from their music. He said “We want to make music for people so that it can be as catchy enough for a passing listener to enjoy on a surface level while also being technically complex enough for ‘trained ears.’ On a different level, we take it further with songs that deal with our personal lives, anxiety, social situations, what have you. It connects to people who are feeling alone or not their best. It makes people feel like they’re not alone and that other people have been there.”

Check out the title track to their latest EP:

Photo courtesy of BiRDPERSON’s Facebook page.