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Kendrick Lamar – “Fear”

It’s on “Fear,” near the end of the album, that Kendrick Lamar finally states his thesis of DAMN.: “Within 14 tracks, carried out over wax / Wonderin’ if I’m livin’ through fear or livin’ through rap.” The track is nearly eight minutes long, but it doesn’t feel that way, given the song’s many movements—a voicemail sermon from his cousin Carl Duckworth, a section of looped vocals that sound like Lamar is speaking in tongues, a list of all the ways a young black man could die, a chorus about rising above it all. This is where Lamar synthesizes DAMN.’s many themes, bringing in elements of love, faith, DNA, and humility. It could be the greatest exploration of mortality in hip-hop, a universal song that’s breathlessly honest to Lamar’s own experience, place in the world, faith, and the fears that come with all of it.

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