Kendrick Lamar has finally dropped his much anticipated DAMN., his fourth studio album, on streaming services shortly after midnight on the east coast Friday, hours after it leaked online and about an hour after pre-orders popped up on his fans' phones.
DAMN. follows To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) and good kid, m.A.A.d. city (2012), both pieces so ambitious and varied, richly envisioned and perfectly executed that Lamar could have retired a legend based on them alone. Expectations are justifiably high. Oh, and... U2? (Yes, U2.)
The album comes after a relatively minimal promotional campaign consisting of one inscrutable-at-the-time social media post on March 23 and the release of "The Heart Part 4" (part of a sequence stretching back to 2010 that provides an arc to Lamar's ascent). One week later came a stunning video for a new song, "HUMBLE." The album's title, art and tracklist arrived on April 11. And now, finally: DAMN.
"Drop one classic came right back / Another classic right back," Lamar rapped three weeks ago on "The Heart Part 4." As Rodney Carmichael wrote here, "When it comes to driving the cultural discourse, Lamar has proven himself to be rap's main course."