Kendrick Lamar – DAMN: The Curse Of A Mortal Man (Lyrics Explained)

 

Can you be immortalized without your life being expired?
Even though you share the same blood is it worth the time?
Like who got your best interest?
Like how much are you dependent?
How clutch are the people that say they love you?
And who pretending?
How tough is your skin when they turn you in?
Do you show forgiveness?
(Mortal Man)

Kendrick Lamar in his new album is not the man we knew in i (Love Myself).

Suicide thoughts and infatuation with death has taken over. The art cover indicates he’s just the shadow he used to be, walking dead in hell.

What happens on Earth stays on Earth, we’re all mortal and can’t be immortalized so what’s worth the time of our life? 

The album, follow-up of To Pimp A Butterfly and its leftovers, consists in many heavy layers to dissect.

1) BLOOD: LIVE OR DIE 

The frustrated and struggling blind woman in the narrated  story may refer to the Kendrick’s close people in Compton, to the Black community in America, or to Hip Hop.

Either way, Kendrick stands as their leader, and is considered as a woke prophet with words of influence and freedom. Some other call him a god emcee.

My niggas think I’m a god
Truthfully all of ’em spoiled (Institutionalized)

However, in his new studio album DAMN., Kendrick suffers from being this leader, and reminds he’s just a man, a mortal man, no less sinner than another.

For him, that was urgent to rewind and remind it.

How many leaders you said you needed then left ‘em for dead?
Is it Moses, is it Huey Newton or Detroit Red?
Is it Martin Luther, JFK, shoot or you assassin  (Mortal Man)

On another hand, the deceiving woman, with blind eyes you can’t read the truth in, may refer to Lucy, in other words, the devil.

So begins the damned hell of the doomed character.

Indeed, in his previous opus, the evil Lucy sounds like a luscious seductive woman:

What’s wrong, nigga?
I thought you was keeping it gangsta
I thought this what you wanted
They say if you scared, go to church
But remember, he knows the bible too

Lucy gon’ call you even when Lucy know you love your Father
I’m Lucy

Finally, as Kendrick often let appears duality in his lyrics and visuals, the blind woman may just be a reflection of his soul, cursed with madness, blindness and astonishment of heart (Deuteronomy).

2) DNA: BORN A SINNER, RISE A WINNER

Many layers in the meaningful track DNA are worth commenting.

The video pictures a bad cop intimidating the leader of a gang supposedly named DNA, Dead Negro Association (actual TDE mafia of the West as we see Schoolboy Q showing off).

The moment he pushes the button on the lie detector is when he’s tasting the truth and all the components in Kendrick’s DNA

I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA
I got hustle though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA 

The track lyrically resonates with Institutionalized, a piece that depicts Kendrick’s conflicted spirit and state of mind.

Oh shit, flow’s so sick, don’t you swallow it
Bitin’ my style, you’re salmonella poison positive
I can just alleviate the rap industry politics (Institutionalized)

 

After the downgrading commentary of Fox News journalists turning Kendrick’s words onto suggestion for police brutality when really his songs are about positivity,

We go back to gangsta rap style for rappers are only thugs for the likes of these peoples.

However, we might picture the character of a gangster, dazed by hood politics/

With that being said, “he’s a different kind of gangster because he’s a gangster with a conscience”(Hiii Power music video).

What is more, if God Is Gangsta he can play the game in reverse (we gon’ put it in reverse),

Despite the fact that we were ‘born sinner, opposite of a winner’,  as J. Cole would quote.

DUCKWORTH recalls Kendrick’s family origins and the surroundings the so-called good kid, mAAd city grew up in.

I was born like this, since one like this
Immaculate conception
I transform like this, perform like this
Was Yeshua’s new weapon

3) FEEL: NOBODY PRAYIN FOR K. LAMAR

It is striking to see the similarities between the set up of Kendrick’s 2016 Grammy performance and his posture in HUMBLE

As he stands in the halo, with the head down, with his feels doomed and with his soul damned.

Plus the words “Nobody pray for me” remain omnipresent in the album and haunts the depressed rapper’s thoughts.

Why you wanna see a good man with a broken heart?
Once upon a time, I go to church and talk to God
Now I’m thinking to myself
Hollow tips is all I got
Now I’m drinking by myself
At the end of Section Park

Kendrick Lamar Grammy 2016

It’s been a week already, feeling weak already
Got me at peak, possibility of what could be

[Wicked or Weakness]

Even though the lyrics in HUMBLE sound more cocky and confident than ever,

Kendrick, considered to be the greatest rapper alive, or once again, the god emcee, borrows ironically the image of the Pope and of the Christ’s last dinner before the betrayal, or simply the death of the leader.

This opens the chapter of Loyalty omnipresent too in this album, and even before it’s release if we rewind the lyrics in Mortal Man.

Even more than that, loyalty is to be considered beyond his own person, directly towards the only God, for Redemption.

 

4) LOYALTY: EITHER LOYAL TO GOD OR TO LUCY

Tell me who you loyal to
Is it money? Is it fame? Is it weed? Is it drink? […]
Tell me when your loyalty is comin’ from the heart

This recalls once again For Sales with Lucy’s monologue seducing with the allure:

“My name is Lucy, Kendrick […]
Lucy gon’ fill your pockets
Lucy gon’ move your mama out of Compton
Inside the gi-gantic mansion like I promised
Lucy just want your trust and loyalty

5) FEAR: EARTH IS A LEAVING HELL (WITHOUT FEAR OF GOD)

Why God, why God do I gotta suffer?
Pain in my heart carry burdens full of struggle
Why God, why God do I gotta bleed?
Every stone thrown at you restin’ at my feet
Why God, why God do I gotta suffer?
Earth is no more, won’t you burn this muh’fucka?

FEAR, with FEEL are the core of the album, they both stand as the heart of the artist captured in one precise moment sadly reflected by the cover art of the album.

They both contain the mantra of the album: a lone man depressed with nobody to pray for him, and feeling like it might be too late for his sins to be redeemed, fearing for damnation.

Until you finally get the memo, you will always feel that way…

Until he searches and finds God, Redemtion and Rebirth, the chain shall enslave, the curse persevere and the world rotate on itself.

So the album will play on and on, forward and rewind, and we gon’ put it on reverse again until our character remains Loyal to the Truth.

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