What if Kendrick Lamar got really mad? For six years and four albums - a lifetime in hip-hop - that's the question everyone's been asking.

Over the weekend, we got our answer.

"I don't contemplate, I meditate, then off your f***king head," spits the 29-year-old Compton native on DNA., the first of DAMN.'s many blisteringly focused verbal assaults.

After two minutes, the beat slows, the bass gets lower, and Lamar really cuts loose. "You muthaf*****s can't tell me nothing," he bellows. "My DNA's not for imitating / Your DNA's an abomination."


Phew. If DAMN.'s moody album art didn't warn you, then DNA. slams the message home. On the follow-up to 2015's progressive jazz-funk odyssey To Pimp A Butterfly, Lamar isn't holding back. He's got issues, and he's ready to go to war over them.

The results are nothing short of breathtaking. In the year of the flex, one which has already seen great rap albums delivered by Migos, Run the Jewels, Drake, Joey Bada$$ and two - two! - from Future, DAMN. hits like a muscled-up Hulk smash.

The cover art for Kendrick Lamar's fourth album, DAMN.
The cover art for Kendrick Lamar's fourth album, DAMN.

On XXX., Lamar grinds about Donald Trump and Fox News, spits the line, "The great American flag is wrapped and dragged with explosives," then gifts Bono a small cameo. A cameo! For Bono! On Loyalty, he hooks up with Rihanna for a pop culture moment. Duckworth includes an apparently true story about his father's near-death experience. Fear includes backwards lyrics you'll need to Google to decipher. Yes, DAMN. requires some serious unpacking. You may want to pack a notepad and pen.

But it's so worth it. "I'm willing to die for this," Lamar claims on Element, before bursting into song about "looking sexy" while destroying his competition. You can almost see the grin. It proves he's not just enjoying his demolition job, Lamar's savouring every second of it.

Kendrick Lamar performs at Coachella. Photo/AP
Kendrick Lamar performs at Coachella. Photo/AP

How ubiquitous are DAMN.'s songs already? At his headlining appearance at Coachella on Sunday night, just three days after the album's release, Lamar sprayed eight of its 14 songs through his set, opening with DNA.'s bruising headshots, then sparked a near-riot by closing his main set with HUMBLE., which, in two weeks, has become one of the year's best singles.

But the most telling moment came when he rose into the air from a stage in the middle of the crowd, crouching, staring straight ahead, silent, but poised, ready for action.

The image was entirely apt: Lamar was a king among his subjects and right now he's absolutely untouchable.

Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

Label: Aftermath/Interscope
Verdict: Rap god proves he's the best of all time