Kendrick Lamar’s new album, DAMN., is out on Friday. It’s his first extended release since last year’s demos collection untitled unmastered, and his first formal record since 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Ahead of its release, here is everything we know about the new record.
There are only three announced guest stars: U2, Rihanna, and Zacari.
Unless Kendrick is planning a last-minute reveal, this would be the first record of his to not include another rapper. On its surface, it would also be the least collaborative record of his career — make room for your “Kendrick went platinum with two features” jokes — though it’s hard to tell precisely without knowing the exact slate of producers. Given his murky beef with Drake, the presence of Rihanna — who probably, definitely dated Aubrey, though neither of them really want to talk about it — on a song called “LOYALTY.” is bound to get some attention. And while U2 haven’t made a consensus great record in nearly two decades, they’re still one of the biggest rock bands in the world; apart from whatever creative fruit borne by the collaboration, their inclusion is a status thing. If there was any doubt Kendrick is big, he’s now got enough clout to snag the studio time of guys who lunch with popes and presidents.
Mike Will Made-It produced three songs.
Specifically, the single “HUMBLE.,” “DNA.,” and the U2-featuring “XXX.” Kendrick and Mike Will have collaborated before (Kendrick appears along with Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane on Mike Will’s recently released “Perfect Pint”), but this is the first time the in-demand producer’s work has appeared on one of Kendrick’s solo albums.
BADBADNOTGOOD, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, and the Alchemist are credited on the album as producers. James Blake might be, too.
It was reported that album credits that came with the pre-order pointed to several potential producers, amongst them BADBADNOTGOOD, DJ Dahi, the Alchemist, 9th Wonder, and a “J. Blake” who many have speculated is mope-pop king James Blake. Sounwave and Terrace Martin, who’ve been collaborating with Kendrick for years, were also credited. Last year, BADBADNOTGOOD told Spin they were getting in the studio with Kendrick.
Kaytranada appears to feature on a song.
The song is called “LUST.,” and was produced with BADBADGOOD and DJ Dahi. KAYTRANADA tweeted (and later deleted) that he sings in Auto-Tune on the song. Kaytranada’s feature is not credited on the tracklist, which could be an indication of more surprises to come.
Kanye West and D’Angelo are not on the album.
Last month, an obviously fake tracklist was going around the internet, featuring song titles like “Richard Nixon” and credits including Kanye, D’Angelo, and André 3000. It seemed more like fanfiction than anything, and unless everything about DAMN. has been a colossal swerve, the tracklist will be definitively proved as fake upon the album’s release.
“The Heart Part IV” is not on the record.
Released last month, “The Heart” teased Kendrick’s album as dropping on April 7 — a date that turned out to just reveal the preorder. It was the fourth in a series of songs dating back to 2010, none of which have appeared properly on a Kendrick album. (Parts 1 and 3 were released as loose tracks; Part 2 appeared on the Overly Dedicated mixtape.) This isn’t the first time a pre-album Kendrick song was left off the eventual record — in 2014, he performed a blistering untitled song on The Colbert Report, which wasn’t included on 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly. (Eventually, it came out on untitled unmastered.) “Cartoon And Cereal” leaked out ahead of good kid back in 2012, but didn’t make its way onto that record, either.
Kendrick described the album as “very urgent.”
He also used an interesting analogy to explain the record in an interview with T Magazine: “We love women, we enjoy their company. At one point in time I may have a little girl who grows up and tells me about her engagements with a male figure — things that most men don’t want to hear. Learning to accept it, and not run away from it, that’s how I want this album to feel.”
There might not be much jazz on the record.
To Pimp A Butterfly was noted for its heavy jazz influence, due in part to the featured presences of Kamasi Washington and Thundercat. In a YouTube interview, producer Syk Sense said the new record was going in the other direction. “It’s some of the hardest shit that I’ve heard,” he said, according to XXL. “And the fact that it’s connected to Kendrick as well just makes it that much better. And I haven’t heard the songs, but I’ve heard the beats. Fuck, we’ve got some… some pretty heavy new guys that’s really going to make a name for themselves off these beats … It’s not like the jazzy sound you would think.” Not long after, Syk asked for the interview to be taken offline, as he said he didn’t know if the beats he’d heard would be on the new album. So, you can take all this with a grain of salt, but the decidedly non-languid “HUMBLE.” might reinforce his point.
This is not his J. Cole collaboration record.
The existence of that record was confirmed by Ab-Soul, but its release date is a big TBD. That’s probably not this, unless everything we currently know about DAMN. is a lie. KanyeToThe forum users will have to wait a little longer.
It already features one of his most successful songs.
The changing structure of the Billboard charts means it’s a little tricky to compare the popularity of songs across eras, but “HUMBLE.,” the first proper single from DAMN., debuted at #2 on the Hot 100. That makes it his highest-charting song ever as a lead artist, surpassing “Swimming Pools (Drank)” which peaked at #17. (The single version of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” went to #1, but the less we speak of it, the better.) Whether “HUMBLE.” will climb to the top of the charts is dependent on Ed Sheeran’s “The Shape of You” — #1 for almost three months, by now — losing steam. (The new Harry Styles single, “Sign of the Times,” may also vault to the top spot.)
He’s never been featured so prominently on an album cover.
2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city boasted an archival photo of Kendrick and his family, dated to back when he was a baby; he was tucked into the scenery on the iconic To Pimp A Butterfly cover; and he appeared on the cover of some of his mixtapes. But Kendrick’s adult face is front and center on the cover for DAMN., accentuated by nothing but that big, blaring text of the album title — his most prominent appearance on one of his proper studio releases.
DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar. pic.twitter.com/ucQcg0PuzG
— Kendrick Lamar (@kendricklamar) April 11, 2017
Every song title ends with a period.
Kendrick has ended songs with question marks before, but never a period. (“A.D.H.D.” doesn’t count, since it’s an abbreviation.) Does this mean nothing… or everything? We’ll find out in less than two days.
A version of this article originally appeared on Spin.