Regardless of the Grammy snub, “DAMN.” is the best album of 2017. Crafted by the best artist in the most popular genre of American music, Kendrick Lamar. Released on April 14, 2017, the biblical Good Friday, and his fourth studio album, “DAMN.”, is the most exciting thing to happen in hip-hop in the last five years. Kendrick Lamar did not let the double platinum record faze him as he came through with a promise that Kid Capri made on “DUCKWORTH”: “We gon’ put it in reverse.”
“DAMN. COLLECTOR’S EDITION.” is the “DAMN.” album backwards. The songs play “DUCKWORTH.”, the conclusion in the original release, and ends with “BLOOD.” When the album was first released rumors circulated that the track-list was meant to be played both forward and backward. Many argued that, by design, Lamar wanted listeners to have two different experiences in one album. In place of a deluxe version of “DAMN.” and a confirmation of the rumors “DAMN. THE COLLECTOR’S EDITION.” was released. The collector’s edition was made available on December 8, 2017, the day of the immaculate conception, a move that one cannot help but call intentional. Surprisingly, the collector’s edition holds an amazing amount of merit on its own. The flow of the songs changes the experience of listening to the album significantly. With “GOD.” and “FEAR.” at the beginning of the album and “DNA.” and “ELEMENT.” at the end, there is a marked change in the vibe.
That vibe is deceptively similar as you work through the unorthodox beats that Kendrick has become known for. The aggressiveness of the soundscape builds instead of mellows. “DAMN.” offers songs like “GOD.” and “LOVE.” as a smooth final act to the album. In the collector’s edition “DNA.” and “ELEMENT.” act as the strong and loud end of the same story. The narrative of Kendrick making it out of the deprived area of Compton and becoming one of the strongest voices of this generation is completely flipped on its head. Instead, the story is of how Kendrick is lost to the cultural pressures and ends up dead just like he feared in the beginning of the album.
For each song to hold its own on the album regardless of whether it is listened to in reverse or its original sequence is a testament to the visionary direction of Kendrick. He was always pegged for his lyrical genius and ability to deliver flow like no one else in the history of the genre. The main criticism of “To Pimp a Butterfly” was that he was unreachable. There was too much for listeners to hold onto, and the full impact slipped through the cracks. With “DAMN.” and “DAMN. COLLECTOR’S EDITION.”, he leaves no room for such frivolous concerns. The tracks are balanced with social commentary, head nodding tracks, obscure Kanye reminiscent samples, and bars that you can sing with a huge grin. A high-rope act that is bold to attempt and outstanding when pulled off.
To release “DAMN. COLLECTOR’S EDITION.” is a victory lap for the 30-year-old rapper. Rarely are such boisterous displays accepted, but that only speaks to the monumental level that Kendrick Lamar is operating on. Since being dubbed the “New King of the West Coast” by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and the Game at an LA concert in 2011, Kendrick has cemented himself as the rightful crown ruler of the most powerful music on the market.