#Kendrick Lamar is the best rapper in the game today. His body of work showcases an indisputable amount of dominance on a track, both from a production and lyricism standpoint. Everything he touches turns to gold. Most people feel the same way about "#Damn.," his latest #Album. Yet for all of its brilliance, there is something lacking this time around that puts his latest record toward the bottom of his career's totem pole.

About the album

Hints of the album came about three weeks before the release, when "The Heart Part 4" came out. Kendrick Lamar suggested people had until April 7th to prepare for "DAMN." The release didn't actually end up occurring until April 14, 2017.

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Production for the album came from all over the place, including Mike Will Made It, among others. "DAMN." debuted at the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart, making it Kendrick Lamar's third consecutive album to do so. 603,000 album-equivalent units accumulated during the first week it was available for purchase or streaming.

Mixed messages

Kendrick Lamar's best attribute is his ability to tell a story. He does so at the beginning of "DAMN.," weaving a tale about trying to help someone who appeared to have lost something. The only issue is, the "BLOOD." the track alludes to is his own. The story isn't told in the most graceful fashion, but it's still an emphatic start to the album.

The momentum doesn't swing very far, though. On "DNA," there's a sense that his socially conscious intensity will drive this album, as it generally does for Kendrick Lamar.

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Then, it kind of fades into this easy-going swagger for the rest of "DAMN." It must be fun to know you're at the top of your profession, but complacency could become an issue. It may have here, as "YAH" smoothed the road.

"ELEMENT" has these dark tones to it, like a discordant aroma beginning to invade the senses. It was a worthwhile direction for Kendrick Lamar to pursue. Instead, "FEEL" - well, it feels like a step back. He's looking out and taking stock of the landscape without really putting his footprint in the sand. He's floating, omnipresent but distant.

"LOYALTY" feels the same way, as Rihanna lends her vocals, but not her full presence. Same goes with "PRIDE," where the grind is too slow. We've become used to the vibrant, abrupt version of Kendrick Lamar. The much more mellow version is hard to ingest.

He starts to take it back on "HUMBLE." There's an unmistakable brashness, ironic when considering the subject matter of the song. Kendrick Lamar really goes in on the beat, battling with it just as Mike Will Made It intended for him to do.

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The hook is super redundant though and seemingly goes on for half the song.

Yet for the rest of the album, he seems to fade to grey once more. He never truly dominates a song or pushes an idea to a new limit. It's not bad for what it is - it's simply not what we've become accustomed to as Kendrick Lamar fans.

There's an expansive universe being created on "DAMN" and it stretches indefinitely. The story comes full circle on "DUCKWORTH," the final track of the album, but it doesn't really resolve, intentionally. There's a push-pull taking place between doing things the same, dominant way Kendrick Lamar has done them before, and letting a different side of him emerge. Maybe the wrong side proved victorious this time.

Final thoughts

Nobody should question where Kendrick Lamar stands on the rap Mount Rushmore. He is the best rapper in the industry today, unquestionably. With that comes a responsibility, but that responsibility could be debated. Does he need to make an album that stays in his own lane or takes a different path?

With "DAMN," he pushed himself in a different direction. It wasn't an entirely bad direction - it was just different. The abrasive rhyme-spitter isn't who showed up for this album. Instead, it was a maturing rapper who didn't have much interest in setting the world aflame beyond the one single. He was more laid back, more understanding of the moving parts around him. Where is the Kendrick Lamar of "To Pimp a Butterfly"?

Best song: "DNA" - much more akin to the usual Kendrick Lamar.

Worst song: "GOD" - it just doesn't elicit a "Damn!"

Album Rating: B-