Album review: Kendrick Lamar – “To Pimp a Butterfly”

by | Mar 20, 2015 | MUSIC

Kendrick Lamar’s third album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” was accidentally released a week ahead of schedule to both iTunes and Spotify.

On the day it dropped, it was streamed over 9.6 million times.

Kendrick Lamar’s third album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” was accidentally released a week ahead of schedule to both iTunes and Spotify.

On the day it dropped, it was streamed over 9.6 million times.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Lamar noted the influence of seventies funk on this album.

Sure enough, the first track opens with a segment from Boris Gardner’s “Every Nigga is a Star,” which was released in 1974.

Lamar collaborates with other artists, both old and new, most notably Dr. Dre on “Wesley’s Theory” and Snoop on “Institutionalized.”

His sound in this new album has elements of funk, jazz, and his own poetry laid out on top of it – blunt and honest. This most recent work tells a very different story than “good kid, m.A.A.d. city,” his 2012 album which spoke more about growing up in Compton.

While that first major label album is about how he got here, “Butterfly” is about what he feels now that he’s made it.

Lamar tells a different story in each track, focusing on social injustices, particularly against the black community.

On “The Blacker the Berry” he said, “It’s evident that I’m irrelevant to society//That’s what you’re telling me, penitentiary would only hire me.”

The airy measures of saxophone and piano quickly become eerie and agonizing as Lamar delves into the lives of his characters. Several times, the music dies completely and Lamar’s voice stands alone speaking truth to power.

He makes several statements about the system of politics in our country on every track but particularly “Hood Politics.”

“Ain’t nothin’ new but a flow of new DemoCrips and ReBloodicans//Red State versus a blue state, which one you governin’?”

In true Kendrick Lamar fashion, the music may be melodic or lively but the lyrics are pure and powerful poetry. He continues to push the boundaries of his genre.

Although fairly new to the scene, Lamar has made quite a name for himself, especially as a rapper not obsessed with the money and fame. While working with Big Sean, he spit a verse that many people believe was actually disrespecting Sean.

“Y’all braggin about so and so, like, ‘Oh, he really it/ The new nigga in rap,’ well, can he really spit?/ Or do he just hide behind his skits like half of these rappers do?/ And then y’all fucking go and praise him in this bitch like they savior of this shit.”

In the interview with Rolling Stone, Lamar called this album “honest, fearful and unapologetic.”

This interpretation fits Kendrick’s entire persona since the birth of his career. In each of his albums he has shown both honesty and musicality on a level that I find unrivaled by any other popular rapper of our generation – and this new album is no exception.

1. Wesley’s Theory

2. “For Free? (Interlude)”

3. “King Kunta”

4. “Institutionalized”

5. “These Walls”

6. “u”

7. “Alright”

8. “For Sale? – Interlude”

9. “Momma”

10. “Hood Politics”

11. “How Much A Dollar Cost”

12. “Complexion (A Zulu Love)”

13. “The Blacker the Berry”

14. “You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said)”

15. “i”

16. “Mortal Man”

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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