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Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” Review

Final Verdict = A+ Classic Review

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Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” Review

Eli Schmitt, Writer

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​After 2012’s Good Kid Mad city expectations for Kendrick Lamar’s album was sky high. One sign of Kendrick’s evolving style was his 2014 single “i” many in the community thought this a sign that he was selling out and going pop but this was quite the contrary. On March 15, 2015, Kendrick released To Pimp a Butterfly a jazz-inspired record that proved that he was not a one-trick pony. To Pimp a Butterfly is at the same time a deeply personal and global album that deals with Kendrick’s post-fame struggles.

The album is deeply indebted to funk, Jazz and West Coast hip hop with contributors such as Anna wise, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, George Clinton, and Snoop Dogg. The album revolves around the story of how Kendrick will deal with his fame. Will he allow Uncle Sam and Lucy (Lucifer) pimp him for profit or will he use his fame for the betterment of mankind?

The album is grand in scope and revolves around a poem that connects the songs and acts together. Kendrick said it best when he said: “I don’t represent the culture I am the culture.” And no where is this more obvious then the song “Alright” which on one end is a song about how Kendrick overcame his suicidal thoughts from the previous song I and brushed off Uncle Sam and on the other hand it represents how the black community will be alright in light of the black lives matter movement (which it became the anthem for). Whether he is dealing with loving yourself on “i,” institutionalized racism on institutionalized or colorism on complexion ( a Zulu love) featuring Rapsody, Kendrick is able to layer complex rhyme schemes, intercut flows and borderline genius lyrics into the songs. On clear example of this comes from the song “King Kunta.” Where throughout the song, Kendrick uses the word “Yams” in order to express many things. He uses it verse 1 in reference to Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (a book about how a mans color makes him invisible in America) where yams symbolize home to the main character.  Next, in verse 2 he uses the same word to describe two more things in the line “The yam brought it out of Richard Pryor.  Manipulated Bill Clinton with desires.” Yams can also be used to refer to a women’s leg or a drug. Here Kendrick has found 1 word that means many different things.  It is just one example of the very layered lyrics that can be found throughout To Pimp a Butterfly.

Even 3 years after its release, To Pimp a Butterfly commands our attention. In all, it is one of the best rap albums of the decade and deserves a listen from anyone that enjoys hip hop. In reality, I can’t say enough good things about it and come back to it often. If you enjoy this album I also encourage you to listen to the podcast Dissect, which goes in-depth on each song and made an amazing album even better for me.

My favortie songs include: Wesely’s Theory, King Kunta, These Walls, Alright, Hood Politics, Complexion   (A Zulu Love) and You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said).

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