Kendrick Lamar Has Released His New Album. Listen Here (Audio)

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Just three weeks ago, Kendrick Lamar turned the Hip-Hop world upside down, with a single post to his Instagram account. Prior to the now ubiquitously discussed picture of the Roman numeral IV that Kendrick shared, his account had been wiped clean, to signal that this was not just a run-of-the-mill addition. The actions set off widespread speculation that it was signaling the forthcoming release of his fourth studio album, if Section.80, good kid, m.A.A.D. city and To Pimp A Butterfly were counted as the prior 3 (or, alternatively, the latter 2 and last year’s untitled.unmastered release of T.P.A.B. outtakes).

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The speculation did not turn out to be totally accurate, as hours later, Kendrick released a new freestyle, volume IV of his “The Heart” series. At the end of that song, however, Kendrick declared that MCs had until April 7 to get their sh*t together, setting off another cycle of chatter that the album would be released on April 7. A week later, the Compton MC released the Mike Will Made It-produced single, “HUMBLE,” along with its Dave Meyers-directed video, his first single from the upcoming project. The visual also came with its own set of controversy, largely due to its depiction of a woman resembling Nicki Minaj when Kendrick rapped the line “I’m so f*cking sick and tired of the photoshop/Show me something natural like afro on Richard Pryor.”

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As it turned out, April 7 came and went with no new Kendrick album to speak of, though it was announced that today (April 14), Heads would finally be treated to a new LP. Earlier this week, the title, artwork and tracklist for DAMN. were announced, and social media was set ablaze. The straight-forward, close-framed portrait of Lamar’s face is in stark contrast to the artwork from TPAB, but is no less striking. Vlad Sepetov, the LP’s graphic designer (who also worked on K.Dot’s previous LP), took to Twitter to discuss the inspiration behind DAMN.‘s front and back covers. “[A]lready seeing a lot of discussion about the cover. and i’m really excited about it. it’s interesting to see people talk about ‘bad’ design,” he began. “[B]ut I’m incredibly proud of this cover. I sort of bucked a lot of what my teachers taught me. I wanted to make something loud and abrasive.” Today, however, he took to Twitter to explain that “I didn’t create Kendrick DAMN. cover, the little homies did. For those taking my tweets out of context, I helped the vision that’s all.”

Featuring appearances from Rihanna and U2, the 14-track project is now on streaming services. As foreshadowed by “HUMBLE, DAMN. is a radical departure, sonically, from To Pimp A Butterfly, or any other Kendrick project, for that matter. In addition to his longtime collaborator, Sounwave, Mike Will produces on several tracks, for a total of 3, including “XXX,” the song featuring U2. The legendary band joins in at the tail end of the song, which features 3 different movements. “LOYALTY,” the Rhinna collaboration, forgoes the big hooks and prominent vocals found on her work with other MCs like Eminem and Drake, and takes a much more organic approach. It is an instant highlight. “FEAR,” produced by The Alchemist, is the most “traditional” sounding Kendrick song, and likely will have many running to pick up a vinyl copy of the album, due to its backwards vocals. 9th Wonder closes the project out, with “DUCKWORTH,” on which he produces 3 different tracks that cause K. Dot to straight BLACK OUT. Listen to the album, in full, below.

On first listen, where does DAMN. rank for you in Kendrick’s catalog?