Kendrick Lamar’s latest release, DAMN., is one of his most raw albums yet. One of the more common themes on the record is Kendrick’s image of God’s ultimate plan for him; who has control over his life, and who is worrying about him while he’s doing good deeds for others? Or, in his own words; “Ain’t nobody praying for me”.
Kung Fu Kenny has always had illusions to Christianity in his lyrics, but DAMN. takes it to another level. Kendrick mentions the Book of Deuteronomy in the song YAH., saying, “Deuteronomy say that we all been cursed”. He’s referencing the curses for breaking God’s laws, being some truly awful punishment involving pestilence, fire, and illnesses. God has control over Kendrick’s life if he strays away from the “noble path” that God wishes him to go on: the Christian path. Kendrick is obviously worried about not going on this path in the album, mentioning on YAH., FEAR., and GOD. his own morality and doubts about himself.
The Post-Plato philosopher, Boethius, thought similarly to Kendrick. In his Consolation of Philosophy, he talks about determinism and wonders, like Kendrick, if God is really all powerful. Boethius describes his Wheel of Fortune idea, in which a person goes through various stages of grief and happiness in their life. Kendrick’s patterns of depression in his music as well as the songs on DAMN. being a lyrical mix of typical hip hop tropes like getting money and fame, while others are introspective pieces on himself, his family, and his relationship to God and his fans, who consider him a type of god.
Kendrick’s final song on the album, DUCKWORTH., also describes fate. Near the end of the song, he mentions an incident that happened between his father, known in the song as Ducky, and his future CEO of Kendrick’s record company, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith. When Kendrick was three, Anthony robbed a KFC that Kendrick’s father worked at but didn’t kill him. Kendrick wonders, “Because if Anthony killed Ducky/ Top Dawg could be servin’ life/ While I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight”. Kendrick’s life could’ve been dramatically changed by this encounter, but because of the way it went down, Kendrick, Ducky, and Anthony are where they are today. One little change could’ve robbed all of them of a future. Fate seemed to work itself that day for the better.
DAMN., while being a phenomenal hip hop album for 2017, analyzes common fears that human beings have about their fate and place in the world. It’s an excellent addition to Kendrick’s already amazing discography.