DAMN. A subtle, yet strong message is now the title of Kendrick Lamar’s fourth studio album. But, is it really what you think it is? Is Lamar who you think he is? Listeners have to reflect on this question throughout the intricate and spaced out introduction, “BLOOD.”

These are just a few of the questions to address while digging into the mind and music of this Grammy Award winner. Lamar has intricate verbal gifts, strong views on cultural politics and an unusual amount of modesty in this era of hyper-connectedness.

Sometimes it may seem that Lamar doesn’t listen too much to others — he strays away from the blurred and tainted media. But, he has been watching and listening all along to how others perceive him based on his musical endeavors. There’s no doubt a fire has been building from within him since he released To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015. He opens up now, and responds to the media and general public with subtle shots present throughout DAMN.

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Kendrick Lamar is human after all, and his self-image tends to mirror his ambitions. He has become focused more on elemental urges and human nature itself. The song titles are simple, yet relatable — ”Love,” “DNA,” “Fear,” etc.

Lamar drives through the album while discussing how modern life is shaped by these predetermined forces. He speaks to the fact that there are forces bigger than us in our history, viewed by the unraveling of one’s “DNA.”

The idea that while Lamar’s fate can come from the society that surrounds him, there will never be room for the paparazzi and slimy columnists who try to dissect and quiet him is visible through the album artwork. Through “DNA,” the potential that was overshadowed by his heritage in Compton, California forms a weapon — a weapon of speech.

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He delves into a charismatic and powerful position on the song “ELEMENT.” He details the allure of the rap game and the differences in what’s real and what’s not — “Most of ya’ll ain’t real, most of y’all gone squeal /  Most of ya’ll been advised.”

In the groovy, yet misery-stricken track titled “PRIDE.,” he reflects on the fact that he can’t trust people or put faith in men — “It wasn’t all to share, but there in another life, I surely was there.” Lamar dissects our polarized society and takes another swing at America.

There is more to the first released track, “HUMBLE.,” — he slows the beat, which allows him to treat each syllable with importance. His narratives land with more of a blunt force, unlike the ones that came up a bit short in To Pimp a Butterfly.

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“FEAR.” combines the personal struggle with the political. Lamar examines the emotion that drives people to act and react to situations — one of the single most powerful emotions that drives those to accomplish their dreams.

DAMN. ends with a two-track statement, “GOD.” and “DUCKWORTH.” One is the entity which many define as the highest world power. The other is a reference to Lamar’s father, and it features the same processed angels who opened the album, singing. It recalls a story about coincidence and chance, focusing on how far a kind gesture really can go in a situation of personal conflict.

Lamar’s appeal as a writer and a performer comes from his optimism, although much of his recent works have a more pessimistic and dark nature to them. DAMN. is a back-and-forth war between Lamar himself, as a human and as a rapper, as he adopts the role of storyteller and songwriter.

There is a constant interpretation of where the world is and how it came to be. But, now he has solidified himself as one of the greatest MCs in America through this album. Life is meant to be lived in the moment and DAMN. celebrates that.

Rating: 4/5