BY JON R. LaFOLLETTE

KENDRICK LAMAR — DAMN (TOP DAWG/AFTERMATH/INTERSCOPE)

Damn. As in, damn, y’all went and elected Trump anyway. As in, damn, America remains a sinister and unwelcoming country for non-white-hetero males. Damn, all men are created equal was always bull——. Damn, God Bless America is a slogan best reserved for those with privilege. Damn, having too much money really is a bad thing for you. Damn, fame is one hell of an illusion. Damn, how does a Compton kid live comfortably in a cozy new mansion? Damn, no one prays for me anymore since Grandma died. Damn, love is hard to find and harder to maintain. Damn, what use is there believing in God when there’s little else worth believing? Damn, I’m lucky my dad never got locked up or murdered. But, damn, I’m still scared for my family and black families everywhere. Damn, is Geraldo Rivera really that stupid? Damn, he is. Damn, the Bono cameo actually works because he sounds like the immigrant he always hated portraying. Damn, the beats are less fussy but no less compelling. Damn, what he lacks in bangers he makes up with conviction. Damn, this might just be the record of the year. Damn, don’t expect him to fake humble when he’s the best rapper alive. GRADE: A

Key Tracks: “HUMBLE.” / “DUCKWORTH.” / “XXX.”

PRAISE FROM THE KING

LeBron James received an advanced copy of “DAMN.” and previewed snippets of the album on Instagram. James spoke to Lamar’s talents after a recent NBA playoff game. “(The album) hit home for me at times because I was a kid that grew up in the inner city, and his story of, the notion of: you either play basketball or sell drugs or that’s it. You know, there’s no out. You become a statistic. And as an African American kid growing up in the inner city, they don’t believe that you can get out and become something. That’s why I’m able to relate to a lot of his lyrics and relate to a lot of his stories.”

BODY COUNT — (CENTURY MEDIA)

My lone avid reader (Hi, Dad) knows this is the first metal album featured in this column. I generally avoid the genre — the musicianship is admirable if the final result is stupid and sterile. But Ice-T isn’t a typical metal head. He wrote “Cop Killer” long before playing one on T.V., and is a rapper who loves Sabbath, Suicidal and Slayer. He’s got enough cash to retire but gets his kicks playing in a band with high school bro and guitarist Ernie C. Protest anthems are back in demand with President Agent Orange in power, and this record is full of ’em. The nihilism of “No Lives Matter” is rooted in America’s omnipresent oppression of the poor, Ice stands his ground on “Black Hoodie,” and the system burns to the tune of a Dave Mustaine solo on “Civil War.” As a pacifist, I hope his violent visions remain fantasy. But my inner realist agrees with him on the title track. “The human is the only animal that actually kills for sport. The ability to kill is as innate as the ability to love.” There’s no room for optimism because these are pessimistic times. Think things are stark now, imagine being black in America. To quote Ice, “I’ve been talking about this s— for 20 years.” GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “No Lives Matter” / “Civil War” / “Bloodlust”

A CHANGE OF PACE

“Bloodlust” was written and recorded during the 2016 U.S. election. Ice-T says the record was intended to protest Trump and bring political activism back to hip-hop. “There’s so much information, and I was getting pissed that nobody was singing about it,” he told The Sun. “Especially in hip hop. I was, like, ‘Alright, I can’t wait to do a record and address some of this. So everything that was going on in the country that I normally speak on, I kind of waited to do the record and talk about it.”

A+ Rare masterwork

A Near flawless

A- Run of the mill good

B+ Flawed but notable

Kendrick on Spotify

Body Count on Spotify

Kendrick on YouTube

Body Count on YouTube