Kendrick Lamar’s New Album: Everything You Need To Know
Music & Sports Editor
It’s been more than four years since Kendrick Lamar made the world say ‘Damn,’ and fans have been eagerly awaiting the follow-up. Here’s what we know about his next album.
Music fans want a new Kendrick Lamar album — NOW. At the start of 2020, when music publications ran their lists of the “Most Anticipated Albums” of the year, the “Alright” rapper’s name appeared on many, even though he had yet to confirmed he was releasing anything new. StereoGum even listed Kendrick as their No. 1, ahead of Rihanna, Cardi B, Frank Ocean, and Fionna Apple (the last one being the only artist who would drop new music in 2020.) After the year came and went without a new record from Kendrick, the cycle began again, with everyone from Consequence to Variety to Pitchfork all saying they can’t wait for K-Dot to gift the world his new music finally.
Kendrick’s previous solo album was DAMN, which arrived in April 2017 to massive success. Commercially, DAMN is currently certified triple-platinum by the RIAA. The album’s lead single, “Humble,” went Platinum seven times. Subsequent singles “Loyalty” (featuring Rihanna) and “Love” (featuring Zacari) also went Platinum multiple times. Numerous music publications named it either one of or the Best Album of the year. Currently, DAMN has a 95 on Metacritic, an unthinkably high score…but Kendrick’s second-highest score.
Kendrick Lamar at the 38th Brit Awards in 2018 (Shutterstock)
The top score (96) belongs to To Pimp A Butterfly, the album Kendrick released in 2015. While not as commercially successful as DAMN (or the prior release, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City), one could argue it’s Kendrick’s best album. The album contains “I,” “The Blacker The Berry,” “King Kunta,” and “Alright” (which features uncredited vocals from the song’s co-producer, Pharrell Williams, per NPR). Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, a three-time Platinum album, arrived in late 2012, one year after Kendrick dropped his debut studio album, 2011’s Section.80. In 2016, Kendrick Lamar dropped untitled unmastered, a compilation album of previously unreleased demos during the To Pimp A Butterfly period.
In the years before his studio debut, Kendrick built a buzz with mixtapes like No Sleep ‘Til NYC, C4, and Overly Dedicated. Since DAMN, Kendrick appeared teamed with Pharrell’s N.E.R.D., lent his voice to a handful of singles and remixes. He also curated and performed on the Black Panther soundtrack in 2018 (which secured him an Academy Award nomination.) Though Kendrick appeared on a handful of songs (“All The Stars,” “Black Panther,” “King’s Dead,” “Big Shot,” “Pray For Me”), it’s felt more K-Dot adjacent than a proper solo release.
So, where is Kendrick’s album?
When Will Kendrick Lamar’s New Album Be Released?
Kendrick Lamar at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards in 2018 (Shutterstock)
As of the end of May 2021, there isn’t an official release date for Kendrick Lamar’s new album.
His label, TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment), got everyone into a frenzy on April 28, when @TopDawgEnt tweeted “THE WAIT IS OVAH!!!” along with a video of a load screen and a date: 5/7/21. This social media message led many Kendrick Lamar fans to think K-Dot finally released his first new single in years. Instead, what arrived on May 7 was “Lay Wit Me,” a new single and music video by Kendrick’s TDE labelmate, Isaiah Rashad. The reaction was mixed – some of Isiah’s fans were happy, but a lot were upset. “Why would you put ‘THE WAIT IS OVAH’ if it’s not Kendrick, nobody gives a flying motherf-ck about Isaiah Rashad. Nobody is waiting,” one fan said, echoing the (albeit rude) sentiment of others.
Kendrick weighed in on the delay while talking with TDE labelmate Baby Keem for i-D in October 2020. “I remember when I came out on my first album, people thought it was overnight, but it was years on top of years of doing it. And that dedication counts man, that’s the fire part about it,” he said. “That’s what will take me so long to do albums (laughs). I spend the whole year just thinking about how I’m gonna execute a new sound, I can’t do the same thing over and over. I need something to get me excited. I see you get frustrated sometimes because you want some new shit.”
What Is Kendrick Lamar’s New Album Called?
Kendrick Lamar performs at the Festival D’ete De Quebec in 2017 (Shutterstock)
As of May 2021, the name of Kendrick’s new album is still unknown.
Shortly after Kendrick dropped DAMN, there was an internet fan theory that his follow-up would be called NATION, as it would be the second half of a massive project (DAMN + NATION = “DAMNATION.) The theories, compiled over by The Verge, is full of wayward threads and stretches of the imagination: the “M” in DAMN makes Kendrick look like he has devil horns; the color scheme of DAMN is red while NATION will be blue because TDE in-house producer Soundwave tweeted something about The Matrix‘s Morpheus; there are secret messages in DAMN’s tracklisting. At this point, it’s all remains speculation.
What’s Kendrick Lamar’s New Record Going To Sound Like?
Kendrick Lamar at the 2017 Coachella Music And Arts Festival (Shutterstock)
Will Kendrick’s new release be a hip-hop album…or a metal record? Bill Werde, a former Billboard editorial director, tweeted in January 2020 that Kendrick’s upcoming record is “pulling in more rock sounds.”
“Did anyone not named Beyonce release better, more meaningful back-to-back albums last decade than Kendrick Lamar? Are you interested to know that I hear from several friends that recording on the new album may finally be done? And that he’s pulling in more rock sounds this time?” he tweeted. “A lot of huge albums expected in 2020. I’ll be surprised if there’s one I listen to more closely the first time than this one.”
Did anyone not named Beyonce release better, more meaningful back-to-back albums last decade than Kendrick Lamar? Are you interested to know that I hear from several friends that recording on the new album may finally be done? And that he’s pulling in more rock sounds this time?
— Bill Werde (@BillWerde) January 11, 2020
“Also, just to be clear,” he added, “just because recording had hit a point where folks believe it may be finished — albums go back to the studio all the time after this point, and for a million different reasons.”
Who Will Feature On Kendrick Lamar’s New Album?
Kendrick Lamar performs on New Years Eve at Drai’s Nightclub in 2016 (Shutterstock)
There were only three features on DAMN: Rihanna, Zacarai, and U2 (“XXX”). To Pimp A Butterfly was packed with guest stars, including Thundercat, Snoop Dogg, Ronald Isley, James Fauntleroy, Rhapsody, and George Clinton. M.A.A.D City had Drake, Jay Rock, Anna Wise, and Dr. Dre. So, it’s possible that, depending on which way Kendrick wants to go, this album will be full of features or strictly K-Dot. However, Thundercat did reveal that he’s back for this new album (after also contributing to DAMN.
“I think I worked on the new one a little bit. But not as much,” he said during a chat with Japanese fashion brand Neet Tokyo, per High Snobiety. “I wish I could spend more time around him creating just because he gives off such energy, and he knows what he wants a lot of time. Some of my favorite moments of recording are with Kendrick.”
“I remember the sophomore jinx of Good Kid M.A.A.D City,” Kendrick said in that i-D chat. “it was for that year and for that time. I was in a different space in my life. I already knew off the top I can’t make Good Kid M.A.A.D City Part Two. The second I’m making that, it’s corny bro. That takes the feeling away from the first. I need that muhf-cka to live in its own world.”
What songs are going to be on Kendrick Lamar’s new album?
Kendrick Lamar performs at the 2016 City Limits Music Festival (Shutterstock)
As of May 2021, there aren’t any wild, free-floating, previously-released Kendrick singles out in the world. So, it’s unclear what will be on the album.
“I feel like Kendrick will be a beacon of what it means to be one of the more creative artists of our generation,” said Thundercat in that Neet Toyko interview, and he’s not wrong. Kendrick stands as one of the more dynamic and intriguing musicians of the last decade. It’s why so many many are waiting to see what Kendrick will do in the 2020s.
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