When the Grammy-winning artist Kendrick Lamar’s fourth studio album, “Damn,” arrived Thursday night , his legions commenced celebrating the Compton rapper’s lyrical chops and acrobatic turns of phrases.
But they also started poring over the album credits and liner notes: Lamar’s wordplay is equaled by his skills as a talent scout and collaborator with a finely tuned ear for producers and samples.
Previous musicians appearing on his records include saxophonist Kamasi Washington, bassist and funk artist Thundercat — both of whom contribute to “Damn” — and Grammy-nominated composer and producer Terrace Martin, who co-wrote and co-produced the “Damn” track featuring Rihanna, “Loyalty.” . Lamar’s worked with producers including Flying Lotus, Just Blaze, Hit-Boy, Mike Will Made-It and longtime collaborators Rahki and Sounwave.
Also earning songwriting credits? Grammy-winning L.A. songwriter Greg Kurstin, best known for co-writing and producing Adele’s smash hit “Hello”; Grammy-nominated British singer-producer James Blake; the veteran Bronx rapper and DJ Kid Capri; and Haitian Canadian producer Kaytranada. The track “XXX,” features rock band U2, most notably vocals by Bono.
Not every contributor can sell out the Rose Bowl, though. Below, a rundown of lesser known artists who helped Lamar — a.k.a. Kung Fu Kenny, as he repeatedly refers to himself on the album -- make his new music.
Anna Wise, “The Feminine: Act II” (Anna Wise). The vocalist has sung on three Lamar albums. That’s her voice on Lamar classics “… Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Money Trees” and “Hood Politics,” among others, and she won a Grammy with Lamar for her work on “These Walls.”
“Working with him changed me in ways I can barely begin to understand. There’s an exchange of energy that happens when you work creatively with someone,” Wise told Nylon last year of her Lamar collaborations. “It affects everyone involved.”
For “Damn,” Wise contributes vocals on one song, “Pride,” which also features rising producer and songwriter Steve Lacy of the Internet.
In addition to her music with the duo Sonnymoon, Wise recently issued a pair of solo albums under “The Feminine” title. The second, called “The Feminine: Act II,” just came out, and it’s a curiously inventive work that mixes future-funk, dusty R&B and experimental pop.
Like singer-innovators such as Erykah Badu, Dawn Richard and Björk, Wise’s best work transcends genre. The only constant? Her willingness to explore the outer edges of contemporary pop music.
Ricci Riera. The Manhattan Beach-based producer has been on a roll for the last few years, earning production credits on popular albums by rappers Drake (“U With Me?”), Schoolboy Q (“Collard Greens”) and Travis Scott.
His track with Scott, “SDP Interlude,” offers the best glimpse of his skills. Dense with reverb and layers of interwoven voices, it’s a swirling ball of confusion. No wonder Lamar’s smitten with his sound.
Riera co-produced two tracks for “Damn.” The first, the humming, minimal “Element,” features the contributions of Blake, among others. The other, “God,” moves with a downtempo grace interrupted by trebled snare and high-hat.
BadBadNotGood. The unlikely ascent of this Canadian instrumental jazz-funk band started about five years ago, when it issued renditions of tracks by rappers including Gucci Mane, Odd Future and Wacka Flocka Flame. Odd Future’s Tyler, the Creator recommended them to his followers, and Bad Bad Not Good signed a deal with L.A.-based label Innovative Leisure, hastening its rise.
Since then, the group has collaborated with artists including Ghostface Killah, Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt and Kaytranada and has issued a series of instrumental albums precisely tailored for rapping over.
Bad Bad Not Good is given a co-production credit on a track called “Lust,” a wobbly, delicate production featuring a beat that runs in reverse. The credit offers further confirmation of a band in the middle of a deep, prolonged groove.
The Alchemist. The respected hip-hop producer was born Alan Maman in Beverly Hills and earned his first credits as part of a duo called the Whooliganz with actor Scott Caan. Not your normal rap pedigree, for sure, and it’s a measure of the producer’s talent that he turned those seemingly privileged beginnings into a lauded production career.
Since then, the Alchemist has worked with underground legends and commercial luminaries including Dilated Peoples, Eminem, Schoolboy Q, Defari, Danny Brown and Mobb Deep, and he earned millions of new fans after he helped produce the music for the video game “Grand Theft Auto V: Welcome to Los Santos.”
The Alchemist was credited with co-producing Lamar’s recent “The Heart, Pt. 4.” That track isn’t on the new record, but he earned placement with “Fear,” yet another archetypal Alchemist rhythm that transforms a set of bars into gold.
9th Wonder. Lamar first solicited a beat from the producer (born Patrick Douthit) in 2010, long before Lamar broke out with “Section.80.” He did it via Twitter by telling 9th Wonder that it “would be an honor if u blessed me with one man. Jus one. To prove I'm capable of rockin over a 9th joint.”
Seven years later, Lamar has proved capable, to say the least, and 9th Wonder has earned a reputation for work with rappers and singers including Mary J. Blige, Anderson .Paak, Jill Scott and Lil B. The producer has also extended his influence into academia; he’s been an artist in residence at Duke University and a fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University.
The 9th Wonder co-produced track “Duckworth” (Lamar’s real surname) concludes “Damn,” and does so by sampling Australian soul-dance group Hiatus Kaiyote’s “Atari” and the mesmerizing vocal work of Earth, Wind & Fire as heard on “Be Ever Wonderful.”