Kendrick-Lamar-DAMN.-album-cover-art-1492191147 Kendrick-Lamar-DAMN.-album-cover-art-1492191147
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10 Reasons Why Kendrick Lamar's 'DAMN.' Album Solidifies His Legacy

The role of the messiah is one that's been cast upon rising rap phenoms for quite some time. 

The role of the messiah is one that's been cast upon rising rap phenoms for quite some time. Having that weight on an artist's shoulders can make their career, just as it has for legends like Rakim, Ice Cube, Nas, and The Notorious B.I.G., who all garnered instant acclaim for their preternatural abilities on the mic. When it comes to carving out a place in the history books early on in their career, there very few wordsmiths who have solidified their legacies by the age of 30. On the other hand, those same expectations can also cripple an artist and make them wilt under the pressure, as a number of artists can attest to.

At the outset of the decade, when rap fans were looking for a new messiah to help move the culture forward, one of the prime candidates was Kendrick Lamar, a promising spitter hailing from Compton, California making noise with his mixtapes, Kendrick Lamar EP and Overly Dedicated. Then, a younger Kendrick began to catch the attention of transcendent figures like Dr. Dre -- who eventually took the young rapper under his wing -- and the spotlight turned to his major label debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city.

Deemed an instant classic by many, good kid, m.A.A.d city only raised the stakes for Kendrick's sophomore album, with the threat of the infamous sophomore jinx looming over it. However, Kendrick would later take his artistry to another level with To Pimp a Butterfly, follow-up to his Aftermath/Interscope debut album.

It's not often that an artist comes along and helps to shift the paradigm and the rules that the mainstream realm plays by, but Kendrick Lamar is one of those talents. With two critically acclaimed albums under his belt, as well as a pair of platinum plaques to show for his efforts, Kendrick is now generating chatter and debate surrounding what his place within the lineage of rap will be when it's all said and done.

With the release of the rapper's conversation-dominating album, DAMN.,  we decided to explore the factors that could influence Lamar's legacy of arguably being the greatest rap artist of his generation.

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1. DAMN. Could Be His Third Consecutive Classic Album

When looking back at the more revered rap artists in hip-hop history, one common denominator shared by those that have earned legendary status as MCs is being the creator of multiple classic albums throughout their career. Some artists don't release their best material until late in their career, but there have been a few to come out of the gate with a streak of classic albums, with three being the magic number. From rap groups like A Tribe Called Quest, N.W.A., and Public Enemy, to soloists like Ice Cube, Eminem, and Scarface, there have been a select group of icons that were able to solidify their legacy solely off the strength of their first few albums. Kendrick appears to be the latest to join that pantheon, as DAMN. builds off the momentum set by good kid, m.A.A.d. city, and To Pimp a Butterfly and completes the rapper's trifecta of pivotal LPs.

2. The Album Showcases His Ability As A Hit-Maker

Upon Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment inking their partnership with Aftermath/Interscope, one of the questions that surrounded the signing was whether Kendrick's hype would translate into radio spins and record sales. Although he has seen some chart success with singles like "Swimming Pools (Drank)," which peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard 200, Kendrick had yet to deliver a smash hit prior to the announcement of DAMN.. That quickly changed when the rapper unleashed the album's lead-single, "HUMBLE." The song, produced by Mike WiLL Made It, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. It became the first rap song to achieve such a feat since 2010, giving Kendrick his biggest song to date and serving as proof of his ability to dominate with style and substance.

3. Comparisons To Tupac Shakur

Being a great rapper on the west coast while being compared to past legends is next to unavoidable, especially with the shadows of pioneers like Ice Cube and Tupac Shakur looming large over California. While there have been a few instances of rappers being groomed to step into those shoes, only to fail or falter under those expectations, Kendrick Lamar has not only risen to the occasion but he has embraced the challenge of building his own legacy while contextualizing his own place in rap history. After ending his To Pimp a Butterfly album with an imagined interview with Shakur, Kendrick makes it a point to subtly compare himself to the slain icon various times on DAMN., like on "ELEMENT.," where he raps "You know careers take off, just gotta be patient/Mr. One through Five, that's the only logic/Fake my death, go to Cuba, that's the only option" -- a nod to the legend of Pac. Before name-dropping his rap deity on the subsequent track, "FEAR" and boasting "I feel like this gotta be the feelin' what 'Pac was," Cornrow Kenny puts himself in rare air on DAMN., and follows a blueprint laid down by former greats and current ones alike.

4. Masterful Collaborative Efforts

A sign of a true musical legend is the ability to not only secure high-profile talents for collaborative purposes but by doing so in ways that are innovative and unexpected, which Kendrick Lamar accomplishes once again on DAMN.. Upping the ante with contributions from Rihanna, who trades verses with Kendrick on the standout cut "LOYALTY.," and rock band U2 ("XXX.)," the features showcase the rapper's willingness to veer right when others go left.

5. Rare Storytelling

Storytelling is among the more vital skills when it comes to the art of emceeing. Many of the more vaunted lyricists and songwriters that have come along over the years have spun spellbinding tales that have played huge roles in securing their legacy and separating them from the pack. Kendrick Lamar has never been shy about incorporating true-to-life testimonials, recollections, and accounts into his music, dating back to his days as a rap blog darling pre-good kid, m.A.A.d. city. He carries on the tradition with a few of DAMN.'s premier offerings. "XXX," FEAR.," and "DUCKWORTH." are all tracks that continue to give insight into the life and times of Kendrick Lamar, while touching on the formative years that molded him into the man that he is today.

6. Transparency

An ingredient for lasting success in the world of rap is having your story become synonymous with overcoming trials, tribulations, and other adversity. Kendrick Lamar has done so while making a name for himself beyond the borders of Compton. On DAMN., these aspects are continued as the rapper gives fans a glimpse into his relationships with his family, fiance, community, and most of all, himself. As opposed to his previous two LP's, which were largely built on narratives rooted in his experience, there's no overarching theme. However, across the album's 14 songs, Lamar gives of himself in bits in pieces, but those occasional nuggets are worth their weight in gold and get the listener more familiar with what makes K.Dot tick beyond the beats and rhymes.

7. Respect From His Peers

Rap is by far the most competitive of all musical genres but is not devoid of reverence or respect -- as Kendrick Lamar has shown over the past five years. Willing to take on any rapper in his path, the brash upstart that once threw down the gauntlet against his peers on the 2013 track "Control" has also gained fans in the very figures he's focused on eclipsing. Rappers like The Game, Busta Rhymes, P. Diddy, and others upon praising K.Dot upon giving his latest long player a spin. It's one thing to be success and another to be acclaimed, but when you combine both and possess them in spades, you can't be stopped.

8. Kendrick Lamar and The Little Homies' Creative Vision

Music videos may not hold the same weight they once did in the past, but they are still a great way to visually convey a message or inspire thought in regards to the meaning of an artist's rhyme and reason. In his career thus far, Kendrick has shown a knack for matching his lyrical content with visual themes, resulting in some of the more memorable music videos in recent memory. He has done it with the help of collaborator Dave Free, who he teamed up with to form The Little Homies and helped co-direct a majority of his music videos. With credits for videos like "Ignorance Is Bless," "i," and "Alright" under their belt, The Little Homies have pushed the envelope once again with the accompanying music video to "HUMBLE." & "DNA.," their two latest visuals to give today's rap fans a taste of quality music in the same way that legends like Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, and others did before becoming icons of the culture.

9. It's An Exercise in Variety

Making one classic album is an accomplishment in itself, but being able to create multiple albums with varying moods, themes, and sounds is pure magic and has only been pulled off by the rarest of talents. Lamar has proven himself to be one of the savants able to make the impossible look easy and leave the crowd to marvel, just as listeners did after taking a listen to DAMN.-- a stark contrast to his previous albums. While good kid, m.A.A.d. city was distinctly steeped in California gang culture, and To Pimp a Butterfly was a funk defied tale of discovery and redemption, DAMN. is free-flowing in nature and comes off as Kendrick's most accessible offering to date. It doesn't sacrifice the substance and guile that has helped elevate him from a mere lyrical miracle into one of the most important voices in rap today.

10. It Stamps Him As One of The More Successful and Acclaimed Rappers of All-Time

If you look at the lists of what many consider to be the best rappers of all-time, you will find a mix of those who were able to reach commercial success, but may have sacrificed artistically to reach those heights. You'll also find a number of more respected lyricists who failed to make an impact on the mainstream and considered unsung and underrated when their body of work is compared with that of more famous rap figures.

However, Kendrick Lamar is on a short list of artists who have been able to check both boxes off, putting him in the conversation with the likes of The Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, 2Pac, Scarface, and others who have earned platinum plaques while simultaneously releasing what is considered their best work to date. Reaching platinum certification with his first two major label albums. If early reports are any indicator, DAMN. is set to debut atop the Billboard 200 and is expected to yield Mr. Duckworth his third consecutive platinum plaque, as well as acclaim for what many are calling another instant classic, making this another reason why his distinction as a rap legend is all but a foregone conclusion.

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CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bill Withers
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Bill Withers' Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.

With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.

Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.

Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.

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8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)

Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)

Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)

Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.

Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.

7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" |  2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)

"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)

Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)

At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.

6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)

Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)

R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."

“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”

Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)

Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)

Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."

5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)

Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012)

Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.

Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit  (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)

On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.

4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward  | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994

Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)

"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.

3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)

Sampled/Covered On:  Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)

Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)

Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.

2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am  (1967)

The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.

1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)

Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” |  Late Registration (2005)

As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.

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Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.

 

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We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

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From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

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