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Kendrick Lamar Says Try Playing ‘DAMN.’ Backwards

Good news for Twin Peaks fans, while you’ve been re-learning how to say “that gum you like is going to come back in style” backwards, Kendrick Lamar put out a whole album that’s meant to be listened to backwards as well as front to back. Lamar’s DAMN., which released a few months ago, has been the subject of speculation about whether it was meant to be listened to in reverse order. In an interview with MTV News, Lamar confirmed that playing the tracks on the album in reverse order changed the experience and that it was intentional.

“I think like a week after the album came out, [fans] realized you can play the album backwards,” he told MTV News correspondent Gaby Wilson. “It plays as a full story and even a better rhythm. It’s one of my favorite rhythms and tempos within the album. It’s something that we definitely premeditate while we’re in the studio.”

When you listen to DAMN. in reverse order, the album takes on a completely different sonic arc. But, as Kendrick explained, it’s not so much the actual narrative that changes.

“I don’t think the story necessarily changes, I think the feel changes,” he said. “The initial vibe listening from the top all the way to the bottom is … this aggression and this attitude. You know, ‘DNA,’ and exposing who I really am. You listen from the back end, and it’s almost the duality and the contrast of the intricate Kendrick Lamar. Both of these pieces are who I am.”

I have to say, I’m impressed by this. Lamar clearly puts a lot of thought and craft into his work, and this is one of the most ambitious things I’ve heard of from a rap album. Interestingly, if you play The Who’s Tommy backwards, it’s about a kid who loses a pinball tournament, gets his sight, hearing and ability speak back and is unmolested by his uncle. And if you play Taylor Swift’s new album backwards, it’s about a well-adjusted young lady who does the work to make her relationships last and does some self-introspection to see if she might be driving people away with her behavior.

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