"Damn." - Lamar, Kendrick

Album

U2 Related Content:

Full Track Listing:

  • Blood (01:58)
  • DNA (03:05)
  • Yah (02:40)
  • Element (03:28)
  • Feel (03:34)
  • Loyalty (Featuring Rihanna) (03:47)
  • Pride (04:35)
  • Humble (02:57)
  • Lust (05:07)
  • Love (03:33)
  • XXX (Featuring U2) (04:14)
  • Fear (07:40)
  • God (04:08)
  • Duckworth (04:08)

Background Information

U2 is credited as a featuring artist on the track “XXX” by Kendrick Lamar. Bono, and perhaps the rest of U2, feature only in two short passages, where Bono sings:

It’s not a place, This country is to be a sound of drum and bass, You close your eyes to look around.

The music in these sections is different than the remainder of the track which is a more traditional Kendrick Lamar track. Two different edits of the song are available digitally, a clean edit and an explicit edit. Both appear to contain the same portion from Bono. A third version of the song that leaked in advance of the album release appears to be a third version of the song, and comes from the physically released CD in the USA and contains some differences from the digital versions mentioned above. Later pressings, internationally, of the CD contained the same track as the digital version instead.

Kendrick Lamar is the name under which Kendrick Lamar Duckworth performs. Lamar was born in Compton, California, and rapped under the name of K-Dot and released a series of mix tapes, eventually coming to the attention of producer Dr. Dre. His first album was released in 2010. Lamar has worked with a number of popular artists in the past including Lady Gaga, Drake, Robin Thicke, Alicia Keys, Imagine Dragons, Beyonce, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Dido and Rihanna.

The news of U2’s involvement in this album first leaked through the pre-order on iTunes, as astute users were able to see the track credits on songs that they had pre-ordered. The writing credits for the album included a song which identified the writing credits on the 11th, unnamed track as “K. Duckworth, M. Williams II, D. Natche, M. Spears, Anthony Tiffith, P. Hewson, D. Evans, A. Clayton & L. Mullen (U2)” At that time it was unknown what the song was.

The track was produced by Atlanta based producer, Mike Will Made-It. Made-It was recently responsible for Beyonce’s “Formation”. Will shared the Grammy nomination for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year for his work with Beyonce.

There are two versions of the album available digitally, an explicit version and a clean version. The clean version of the track ‘blanks’ out some words that are considered explicit in the original version. A third version of the song did leak prior to the album release, which was missing the lyric, “Alright kids we’re gonna talk about gun control, Pray for me.” That third version was an explicit version of the song. This third version is the version that is found on the actual physical CD release rushed out in the USA to meet a short deadline from announcement to release. Later pressings, such as those done for the Canadian market contain the same version as the digital release. (Initial pressings from the USA were sold in Canada, but later a pressing for the Canadian market was done separate.)

Is all of U2 on the track? They are credited as being there on the back of the album, and in the writing credits for the song. However, in an interview with Buzzfeed, producer Mike Will Made-It revealed a bit more about Bono’s involvement:

He wasn’t totally surprised when Lamar called him with the news (“I’m sure he’s met Bono multiple times as well”) but he had a hard time conceiving of what the song might sound like initially (as did others). “I was really tryin’ to imagine, like, ‘How could U2 get on that track?’” he said. “Like the track was just so uptempo.”

To make it work, Lamar’s production team expanded on the template established by Mike’s original drums (heard in the song’s middle portion), adding transitions and some new instrumental sections, including the downbeat piano that accompanies Bono’s part.

When Mike heard the final product, he was delighted at the way everything clicked. “It was just ill to play a part in that. It was just ill to produce that record and actually go in with [Lamar] and do some creative shit,” he said. “With Bono, I hadn’t wanted to really blow him up or force it, because I wasn’t really sure how we could even work together. But with everybody adding their contributions to this song right here, it just came out dope as fuck man.”

The making of the track was also discussed in Rolling Stone Magazine. “Lamar and Bono had been talking about collaborating in one form or another for a while, but finally Bono sent in a slew of song ideas and vocals that Lamar and some of his producers picked apart until they found just the right moments, then built a track around it.” No mention is made about any instrumental contribution to the song by the remainder of U2. As such we have chosen to list this as a Bono solo project, as well as a U2 collaboration.

Liner Notes

XXX:
Written by K. Duckworth, M. Williams II, D. Natche, M. Spears, Anthony Tiffith, P. Hewson, D. Evans, A. Clayton, L. Mullen
Produced by Mike Will Made-It and DJ Dahi and Sounwave and Anthony “Topdawn” Tiffith. Additional Production by Bekon. Additional Keys by Kendrick Lamar. Additional vocals by Bekon and Kid Capri.
Mixed by Derek ‘MixedbyAli’ Ali. Mixing Assistant Tyler Page and Cyrus “Nois” Taghipour. Recorded at Jungle City Studios. Additional Recording by Zeke Mishanec and Brendan Silas Perry.

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