Damn (Kendrick Lamar album)

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Damn
Kendrick Lamar dressed in a off-white shirt behind red bricks. The word "DAMN." appears on the top in red.
Studio album by
ReleasedApril 14, 2017 (2017-04-14)
RecordedLate 2016 – 2017
Studio
GenreConscious hip hop
Length54:54
Label
Producer
Kendrick Lamar chronology
Untitled Unmastered
(2016)
Damn
(2017)
Black Panther: The Album
(2018)
Collectors Edition cover
A black and white image of Kendrick Lamar standing next to a closed storefront dressed in a white shirt with the text "DAMN." printed on the shirt.
Singles from Damn
  1. "Humble"
    Released: March 30, 2017
  2. "Loyalty"
    Released: June 20, 2017
  3. "Love"
    Released: October 2, 2017

Damn (stylized as DAMN.) is the fourth studio album by American rapper Kendrick Lamar. Released on April 14, 2017, through Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records. A critical success, it earned Lamar a Pulitzer Prize for Music and the Best Rap Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards. The album features guest appearances from Rihanna, Zacari, and U2.

Lamar assembled numerous artists and producers to produce the album, including executive producer and Top Dawg Entertainment label-head Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, Mike Will Made It, and Ricci Riera, as well as further production contributions from James Blake, Steve Lacy, BadBadNotGood, Greg Kurstin, The Alchemist, and 9th Wonder, among others.

The album has been categorized as conscious hip hop, a genre Lamar incorporated on his previous studio album, To Pimp a Butterfly. The album also incorporates elements of trap, contemporary R&B, and pop. Prior to the album's release, Lamar released a promotional single, "The Heart Part 4". In the months that followed, Lamar released three singles from the album; "Humble" was released in March 2017, "Loyalty" in June 2017, and "Love" in October 2017, the first of which became Lamar's first number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 as a lead artist.

Damn received widespread critical acclaim, with many naming the album one of the best albums of 2017 and the decade. The album topped the US Billboard 200 with 603,000 album-equivalent units earned in its first week and topped the chart of Canada while reaching number two in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. It has since been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in May 2018 and was the Billboard Year-End number one album of 2017. In 2020, the album was ranked 175th on Rolling Stone's updated list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Recording and production[edit]

The beat for "Humble" was developed by Mike Will with the intention of recording with Gucci Mane, but later showed it to Kendrick Lamar. After recording, it was initially agreed upon that it would be released on Mike Will's debut album Ransom 2, but others convinced Lamar to keep it for his own next album.[1]

"DNA" was the second song from the album to be recorded by Lamar and Mike Will, after "Humble". After the first verse of "DNA" was recorded with the beat that Mike Will had already prepared, Lamar started rapping the second verse a cappella, requesting that Mike Will build the beat around the rap. Lamar proposed that it sound like "chaos", and Mike Will put together the second half of the song with the intention to make it "sound like he's battling the beat".[1]

Lamar has said in interviews that the ability to play the album in reverse tracklist order was "premeditated ... in the studio": "It plays as a full story and even a better rhythm. It's one of my favorite rhythms and tempos within the album".[2]

Musical style[edit]

Damn has been characterized as conscious rap[3] with elements of trap,[4][5][6] R&B[6][7] and pop.[6]

Artwork and title[edit]

On April 11, 2017, Lamar revealed the cover artwork for Damn.[8][9] The album cover was designed by Vlad Sepetov, who created the album covers for Lamar's last two projects – To Pimp a Butterfly and Untitled Unmastered. Sepetov described Damn's cover as "loud and abrasive" and "not uber political like To Pimp a Butterfly but it has energy".[10] Sepetov goes on to say the decision to put the Parental Advisory sticker in its unconventional position was so it could be a part of the design instead of an "afterthought".[10] Billboard listed the cover as one of the best of 2017, dubbing it "both meme-able and memorable".[11]

In a radio interview on June 29, 2017, Lamar revealed the original title for the album was going to be What Happens on Earth Stays on Earth, but eventually settled on Damn. He stated the working title "didn't read right".[12] Lamar went on to say about its final title, "There was so many different ways you could put it in my head. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. The loudness of the record. When I think about "DNA", when I think of "Humble", when I think these records, it just felt like that."[12]

Release and promotion[edit]

Lamar on The Damn Tour in 2017

On March 23, 2017, Lamar released a promotional single, "The Heart Part 4", which contained lyrics hinting at a possible April 7 release date for his fourth studio album.[13] On April 7, 2017, the album was made available for pre-order and confirmed to be released on April 14.[14][15] On April 11, Lamar revealed the track listing for Damn.[8][9]

On December 8, 2017, Lamar released the Collectors Edition of the album. The album is the same musically, but has a reversed track order and new artwork.[16][17]

Singles[edit]

On March 30, 2017, Lamar released the album's lead single, "Humble", accompanied by a music video.[18][19] It reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the Canadian Hot 100 chart.[20][21] "Loyalty" featuring Rihanna, was released as the album's second single on June 20, 2017, to rhythmic and urban contemporary radio.[22][23] The song peaked at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.[24] "Love" featuring Zacari, was released as the album's third single on October 2, 2017, to rhythmic contemporary radio.[25] It was released to contemporary hit radio on November 21, 2017.[26] The song peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.[24]

Other songs[edit]

The music video for the song, "DNA", was released on April 18, 2017.[27] The song entered at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Lamar's second highest-charting song as a solo artist after "Humble".[24]

The music video for the song, "Element", was released on June 27, 2017.[28] The song peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.[24]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?9.1/10[29]
Metacritic95/100[30]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[31]
The A.V. ClubA[32]
Chicago Tribune[33]
The Daily Telegraph[34]
Entertainment WeeklyA[35]
The Guardian[36]
NME[37]
Pitchfork9.2/10[38]
Rolling Stone[39]
Vice (Expert Witness)A−[40]

Damn was met with widespread critical acclaim. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from professional publications, the album received an average score of 95, based on 39 reviews.[30] Aggregator AnyDecentMusic? gave it 9.1 out of 10, based on their assessment of the critical consensus.[29]

Andy Kellman of AllMusic stated that "it contains some of Lamar's best writing and performances, revealing his evolving complexity and versatility as a soul-baring lyricist and dynamic rapper".[31] Christopher R. Weingarten, an author for Rolling Stone, said, "Much like the recent A Tribe Called Quest record, Damn. is a brilliant combination of the timeless and the modern, the old school and the next-level. The most gifted rapper of a generation stomps into the Nineties and continues to blaze a trail forward".[39] In his review, Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune states, "Damn. strips down the rhythms to their essence, flavored with the occasional cameo (notably Rihanna and U2). Lamar's voice does most of the heavy lifting, playing multiple roles and characters. His supple singing complements a variety of rap tones and textures".[33] Jon Caramanica of The New York Times gave a positive review, stating "Tart and punchy. ... Sometimes boisterous, sometimes swampy, rarely fanciful album—it's Mr. Lamar's version of the creeping paranoia that has become de rigueur for midcareer Drake. And yet this is likely Mr. Lamar's most jubilant album, the one in which his rhymes are the least tangled".[41] Eric Renner Brown of Entertainment Weekly said, "After delving into the personal on 2012's Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and going broader on Butterfly, Lamar has found a middle ground on Damn. that yields some of his most emotionally resonant music yet".[35]

Alexis Petridis of The Guardian wrote: "If it seems a more straightforward listen than To Pimp a Butterfly, there's a cheering sense that this doesn't equate to a lessening of musical ambition. There's none of that album's wilfully jarring quality – its sudden, anxious musical lurches and abrupt, short-circuiting leaps between genres – but the tracks on Damn still feel episodic and expansive. Whether Damn will have the same epochal impact as To Pimp a Butterfly remains to be seen, but either way it sounds like the work of a supremely confident artist at the top of his game."[36] Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph stating that Damn "is the work of a future all-time great in full command of his powers".[34] Leonie Cooper of NME said, "Damn. is by far his shortest release to date – but the ideas, thoughts and feelings it contains are massive, weighty things, from sexual tension to deep, dark depression".[37] In Pitchfork's review of Damn, Matthew Trammell writes Damn "is a widescreen masterpiece of rap, full of expensive beats, furious rhymes, and peerless storytelling about Kendrick's destiny in America".[38] Writing for The A.V. Club, Evan Rytlewski concluded, "Lamar trusts every idea to stand on its own. When you're making art this substantial, vital, and virtuosic, there's no need to wrap a tidy bow around it".[32] In a mixed review, A. Harmony of Exclaim! wrote that Damn "is the first time in Lamar's career that he hasn't broken new ground, explored old themes in new ways or exhibited sonic growth".[42]

Rankings[edit]

Select rankings of Damn
Publication List Rank Ref.
The A.V. Club The A.V. Club's 20 Best Albums of 2017
1
50 Favorite Albums of the 2010s
11
Billboard Billboard's 50 Best Albums of 2017: Critics' Picks
1
The 100 Greatest Albums of the 2010s
48
Complex The Best Albums of 2017
1
The Irish Times Ticket Awards 2017: The Best Music of the Year
1
Paste The 50 Best Albums of 2017
2
The 100 Best Albums of the 2010s
12
Pitchfork The 50 Best Albums of 2017
1
The 200 Best Albums of the 2010s
57
Rolling Stone 50 Best Albums of 2017
1
500 Greatest Albums of All Time
175
The 200 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of All Time
60
Stereogum The 50 Best Albums of 2017
2
The 100 Best Albums of the 2010s
11
The Village Voice Pazz & Jop Music Critics' Poll
1
The Wire Releases of the Year 1–50
41

Industry awards[edit]

Awards and nominations for Damn
Year Ceremony Category Result Ref.
2017 American Music Awards Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album Won [60]
BET Hip Hop Awards Album of the Year Won [61]
Danish Music Awards International Album of the Year Won [62]
Q Awards Best Album Nominated [63]
2018 Fonogram Awards Best Foreign Rap or Hip-Hop Album of the Year Won [64]
Grammy Awards Album of the Year Nominated [65]
Best Rap Album Won
iHeartRadio Music Awards Hip-Hop Album of the Year Won [66]
Juno Awards International Album of the Year Won [67]
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Album Won [68]
Pulitzer Prizes Pulitzer Prize for Music Won [69]

Commercial performance[edit]

In the United States, Damn debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with 603,000 album-equivalent units in its first week of release, becoming his third consecutive album after To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) and Untitled Unmastered (2016) to reach the nation's summit. It sold 353,000 copies in its first week and accumulated over 340 million streams.[70] In its second week, the album remained at the top of the US charts with 238,000 album-equivalent units of which 87,000 were traditional album sales, bringing the sales to a total of 841,000 units.[71] In its third week, the album continued to top the charts with 173,000 album-equivalent units of which 57,000 were traditional album sales, bringing the sales to a total of 1.014 million units.[72] As of April 2018, Damn had sold 1,002,000 copies and earned 3,137,000 album-equivalent units in the US.[73]

On May 10, 2018, the album was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for combined sales, streaming and track-sales equivalent of three million units.[74] The album also opened atop the Canadian Albums Chart with 35,000 consumption units and 25.4 million streams, becoming the rapper's third consecutive album to arrive at number one.[75] In the United Kingdom, Damn sold 30,000 units in its first week and entered at number two on the UK Albums Chart.[76]

According to IFPI, it was the seventh best selling album of 2017, with 1.3 million copies shipped globally.[77] Damn was ranked as the number one album of the year on the Billboard 200 in 2017.[78] In 2018, Damn was ranked as the thirteenth most popular album of the year on the Billboard 200.[79]

Track listing[edit]

Damn track listing
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Blood"
1:58
2."DNA"Mike Will Made It3:05
3."Yah"
2:40
4."Element"
3:28
5."Feel"
  • Duckworth
  • Spears
Sounwave3:34
6."Loyalty" (featuring Rihanna)
3:47
7."Pride"
  • Lacy
  • Top Dawg
  • Bekon[a]
4:35
8."Humble"
2:57
9."Lust"
5:07
10."Love" (featuring Zacari)
3:33
11."XXX" (featuring U2)
  • Mike Will Made It
  • DJ Dahi
  • Sounwave
  • Top Dawg
  • Bekon[a]
4:14
12."Fear"7:40
13."God"
  • Duckworth
  • Riera
  • Spears
  • Natche
  • Tannenbaum
  • Ronald LaTour
  • Tiffith
  • Daveon Jackson
  • Mike Hector
  • Walton
  • Brock Korsan
  • Riera
  • Sounwave
  • DJ Dahi
  • Bekon
  • Cardo
  • Top Dawg
  • Yung Exclusive[b]
  • Hector[b]
  • Walton[b]
4:08
14."Duckworth"4:08
Total length:54:54

Notes

  • ^[a] signifies an additional producer
  • ^[b] signifies an uncredited co-producer[80][81]
  • ^[c] signifies a vocal producer
  • Every song is stylized in all capital letters, with a period at the end of their titles, including featured artist credits. For example, "Loyalty" is stylized as "LOYALTY. FEAT. RIHANNA."
  • Some CD pressings of the album have slight differences: "Pride" runs for 4 minutes and 31 seconds (4:31), "Love" runs for 3 minutes and 31 seconds (3:31), and "Fear" runs for 6 minutes and 54 seconds (6:54), bringing the total album length to 54 minutes and 2 seconds (54:02). This version of the album also features slightly different mixing.[82]

Sample credits

Personnel[edit]

Adapted from the album liner notes and AllMusic.[87]

Production and music

  • 9th Wonder – production ("Duckworth")
  • Anna Wise – additional vocals ("Pride")
  • Alan "The Alchemist" Maman – producer ("Fear")
  • Bekon – additional vocals ("Blood", "Yah", "Pride", "XXX", "Fear", "God", "Duckworth")
  • Carl Duckworth – additional vocals ("Fear")
  • Charles Edward Sydney Isom Jr. – additional vocals ("Fear")
  • Chelsea Blythe – additional vocals ("Feel")
  • DJ Dahi – additional vocals ("Loyalty")
  • Dave Free – associate producer
  • Dr. Dre – executive producer
  • Kam Sangha – production
  • Kamasi Washington – strings ("Lust")
  • Kaytranada – additional vocals ("Lust")
  • Kendrick Lamar – vocals; additional keys ("XXX")
  • Kid Capri – additional vocals ("Element", "Love", "XXX", "Duckworth")
  • Kuk Harrell – vocal production for Rihanna
  • Matt Schaeffer – guitar ("Humble"); additional guitar ("DNA", "Feel")
  • Mike Hector – additional drums ("God")
  • Rat Boy – additional vocals ("Lust")
  • Steve Lacy – background vocals, production ("Pride")
  • Thundercat – bass ("Feel")

Technical

  • Blake Harden – recording ("Lust", "Duckworth") at Windmark Studios
  • Brendan Silas Perry – additional recording ("Element", "Love", "Duckworth")
  • Cyrus Taghipour – mix assistant
  • Derek "MixedByAli" Ali – mixing
  • James Hunt – engineer, mixing ("Element")
  • Marcos Tovar – vocal recording for Rihanna (at Windmark Studios)
  • Matt Schaeffer – engineer ("Humble"); mixing ("Element")
  • Mike Bozzi – mastering at Bernie Grundman in Hollywood, California
  • Sounwave – mixing ("Feel")
  • Tyler Page – mix assistant
  • Zeke Mishanec – additional recording ("Element", "Love", "Duckworth")

Art

  • Dave Free – creative direction, photography
  • Kendrick Lamar – creative direction
  • Roberto Reyes – photography
  • Vladimir Sepetov – creative direction

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Certifications and sales for Damn
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[163] 2× Platinum 140,000
Austria (IFPI Austria)[164] Gold 7,500
Belgium (BEA)[165] 2× Platinum 60,000
Canada (Music Canada)[166] 4× Platinum 320,000
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[167] 3× Platinum 60,000
France (SNEP)[168] Platinum 100,000
Germany (BVMI)[169] Gold 100,000
Iceland (FHF)[170] Gold 3,500[171]
Italy (FIMI)[172] Platinum 50,000
Mexico (AMPROFON)[173] Gold 30,000
Netherlands (NVPI)[174] Gold 20,000
New Zealand (RMNZ)[175] 6× Platinum 90,000
Norway (IFPI Norway)[176] Platinum 30,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[177] Platinum 20,000
Singapore (RIAS)[178] Gold 5,000*
Sweden (GLF)[179] Gold 20,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[180] Platinum 300,000
United States (RIAA)[74] 3× Platinum 3,000,000

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Release dates and formats for Damn
Region Date Label(s) Format(s) Edition Ref.
Various April 14, 2017 Standard [181]
April 21, 2017 CD [182]
Japan May 24, 2017 Universal Music Japan CD [183]
Various July 14, 2017
  • TDE
  • Aftermath
  • Interscope
Vinyl LP [184]
December 8, 2017
  • Digital download
  • streaming
  • CD
Collectors Edition [185]
Japan July 18, 2018 Universal Music Japan CD [186]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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