Kendrick's not trying to rap circles around the competition.
There is a lot of great rapping on DAMN. As expected, Kendrick is meticulous with his words, but this album is not simply about showcasing technical rap skills. Kendrick's last releases—To Pimp a Butterfly and untitled unmastered.—were far more experimental and challenging than anything he'd ever released, and "The Heart Part 4" felt like a warning shot signaling things to come on DAMN. It felt like Kendrick was about to take the throne and get back to rapping circles around the competition, as we know he's capable of doing.
But on DAMN., there is no "Control" moment. There are some shots fired, which will absolutely be dissected in the coming weeks in articles with click-friendly headlines, but Kendrick's intentions here are clearly deeper than taking down opponents or proving he's a better rapper than everyone else in the game. Often times in rap, the line between art and sport is blurred, but this album clearly leans toward the former. Maybe when you truly believe you're the best, you don't feel the need to prove it. Or maybe Kendrick's just waiting for the right moment to snap.