On Friday, Kendrick Lamar did what Kendrick Lamar has become known for. He dropped an album that lit homes on fire. I went through three pairs of headphones just to find a pair that was suitable for the level of heat emulating from the album. In fourteen songs, Kendrick again altered what we believe about hip hop in his third major studio album, DAMN. I could talk about the album all day honestly, and I could talk about K Dot for the rest of my life, but at some point I need to make this relevant.
The current draft class is one of the most touted in recent memory. There are many guys in the class that have very high hopes coming from scouts all around the league. Not just the guards, who are incredibly talented, but the wings with their high IQ. I don’t think I’m allowed to just do a write up of DAMN., so instead I’m going review a few of the tracks and relate them to some of the best prospects in the upcoming draft.
Track 1: BLOOD.
DAMN. opens up slowly. BLOOD. is less of a song and more of a story. Kendrick likes to remind us how good he is at the art of storytelling. The story is normal, slow, stagnant, but still somehow ominous. It seems as if it is building to something, even though it is not really building at all. Then, just as you have been lulled to sleep, “You have lost… Your life” POP. Out of nowhere, gunshot, which led to some pretty awesome internet theories.
Lonzo Ball fits this mold, which works well because there is a possibility of him being taken first in June. He is a slow and deliberate guard that normally looks to pass first. This makes him a rare prospect like John Wall that is an elite athlete at point, but still possesses the IQ to look to pass. Often, he lulls defenders to sleep due to his nonchalant nature and his lack of intense speed. Realistically, this shot is the perfect embodiment of this song. Lonzo doesn’t make any shocking moves or show off any speed, just a simple step-back from 30 feet against an Oregon team that made the Final Four.
Track 2: DNA.
This song is too hot for human ears. I couldn’t even fathom it the first time I listened. Now, I have listened over 20 times and it still makes me make that face you make when something is just too unfathomably awesome for any word or human sound. There is nothing subtle about it. His flow is tight, the beat bumps, and he flexes on the entire industry. Additionally, it has two of the hottest beats I’ve ever heard in the same song. This song is absurd.
I wanted to make this track Miles Bridges, but he is staying at Michigan State for his sophomore season. Out of necessity, I’ll give this track to Jayson Tatum. He had a fantastic freshman season and was one of the two reasons (Luke Kennard) why Duke was relevant in any way this year. He did it with insanely clutch shots and monstrous slams, along with an intensity that is rarely seen out of an 18 year old. His confidence is unmistakable and he can back it up with absolutely fire plays like this dunk over Kennedy Meeks. He is very good. Not quite as good as this song, but he embodies its intense, confident, flex-on-everything-that-walks spirit.
Track 3: YAH.
Coming off of the California wildfire that is DNA., Kendrick slows it down again with YAH. This is another track with a beat that will force you to slowly bump your head to it. He talks about faith and politics in the calmest way possible and shows that there are vocal dynamics in modern hip hop. The severity of what he is saying is subtle, and for the most part he does all the right things to get his point across and keep the listener calm.
Josh Jackson’s game is really special for a freshman. I watched Kansas a lot this year and I’m honestly not sure if i saw him make a single glaring error. Everything he does on the court has a purpose. Jackson has an unbelievable tendency to be in the right place at the right time for putback dunks or cuts through the lane. Likely a top-3 pick, there is a bad lottery team that is going to gain a calming, veteran-like force with Jackson. He mirrors the track because he put up fantastic numbers throughout the year with a steady, thoughtful speed to his game, never showing any signs of pressing.
Track 4: ELEMENT.
This song comes at you hard at the start, but then goes back to vibing like only Kendrick can. It’s sexy and it again shows that his flow is the best in the game right now. There are parts where he picks up and goes hard again, but for the most part, he’s keeping the listener patient, slowing off his talent and dominating the game quietly. By the end of the song, you feel calm, but then you think about it and you’re like “fuck that was bonkers.”
Markelle Fultz’s game mirrors this track perfectly. He is widely believed to be the best prospect in the draft, so much so that he has hardly been talked about. Of course, the fact that he was in Washington didn’t really help his publicity, but he is so much better than everyone that he is almost just disregarded in draft conversations. Once he gets to the NBA, he will never be disregarded, though. His game has an unmistakable flow and dominance to it, and sexy is definitely a word you can use to describe it. He can score from everywhere on the floor, and pass efficiently. Also, every once in awhile he throws down a monster hammer like this. So basically, he isn’t going to pop out of the game, but his box score will make you say, “DAMN.”
Track 8: HUMBLE.
This song was the lone single off the album (“The Heart pt. 4” didn’t make the album). After lulling us to sleep since the third track of DAMN. with songs that are slow and thoughtful, Kendrick goes full flex and absolutely annihilates every rapper that thinks they are relevant. The beat is classic, but unique and somehow hot, and again gives him a stage to show off his amazing flow. Also, I hate music videos, but this one is more than worth the watch.
De’Aaron Fox has a classic game. He thrives in the midrange as a scorer and is a dynamic, pass-first guard. He oozes with confidence on the court. In the Sweet 16 against UCLA, he asserted his dominance against Lonzo Ball. It was truly amazing how completely useless he rendered the man related to the opening track on DAMN. If he becomes the best point guard in this class, I wouldn’t be completely surprised, and it is mostly because of how confident he is in his classically dominant game. That’s really what this song was, too: uniquely classic and dominant.
Track 11: XXX. FEAT. U2
This is another track that does not want anything to do with subtlety. It has a starkly anti-establishment message and a beat that would get a Tibetan monk out of his seat. Seriously, this song BUMPS. But, then there is a switch and it shows that it is fully capable of a slow, deliberate approach to the game and the importance of clarity when trying to get a point across (this is when Bono’s butter-like voice makes its way to the track).
I think Dennis Smith embodies everything this song is. He didn’t seem interested in the college game. NC State was really, really bad, and this led to all of their talented players, and especially Smith, to be fairly disinterested in the season as a whole. Still, he is probably the most explosive point guard in this draft. He has triple-double ability combined with an ease of scoring from anywhere on the floor. He can punch you in the mouth in the rim, or punish defenders with mid-range pull-ups.