Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
It’s Sunday, a perfect day to start a new series! Welcome to the IOU Series!
I write a lot of crap about a lot of things, in these pages. And you folks, you lovely Constant Readers, are good enough to come by and put up with my jibbering, and comment on whatever it is on any given day. And through these comments, conversation threads begin, which lead to many things… very often, it’s record recommendations for associated or similar artists, which is yet another reason why I love this community (there are many).
Often times, following a recommendation, I’ll say “sure, I’ll try that!” and I mean it every time. Now, sometimes life gets in the way, or ten other albums I wanna hear come first, or whatever the case. But I do intend to hear them all and, being the geek I am, I’ve kept a list of all the stuff I’ve meant to get to…
So. This IOU Series will contain a bunch of stuff that I’ve promised to cover, and never quite gotten around to it… UNTIL NOW!
I covered Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City a while back. Following that, Marshall at the amazing Free City Sounds blog mentioned that I should definitely move on to this one.
Right from that amazing cover art photo (sure to give Trump a heart attack), and before we get started, I need to preface this whole thing with a disclaimer that I am a fairly uninformed person when it comes to modern rap. I likely shouldn’t even be trying to write about it here. I went back and looked, and I put the same damn disclaimer on my Good Kid… review too! Hey, at least I’m consistent…
However, I promised I would get into this record a long while back, and I am a man of my word, so here we go! I will, as always, be writing from the gut (not any knowledge gleaned from long immersion in the genre).
The first thing that comes to mind, after hearing this one, is: I remember thinking there was real potential on that earlier release, and hoping that the next record (this one) would bring maturity and clarity to the table.
I think he did it. Some of the songs are funky, maybe a little spacey (at times), and definitely soulful and jazzy. The rapping comes fast and furious (how does he not stumble, at that speed?), and the messages are clear and strong. This is his America right now, and our world at large, and we human beings have potential and we can reach it. And we can still want sex and good times too. We acknowledge that life can be (and often is) very difficult. But we’re in it together, across (ought to be) inconsequential boundaries like race or where you grew up.
There are some great guests here, like George Clinton, Thundercat, Anna Wise, Bilal, Snoop Dogg, James Fauntelroy, Ronald Isley, Rapsody, Pharrell Williams, Dr. Dre…
I loved the one-liners that were just perfect, like “look both ways before you cross my mind.” Man, that one ruled. Or “Shit don’t change ’til you get up and wash your ass.” Seemingly innocuous lines like “if these walls could talk” take on new power when you realize it covers a lot more than just the walls of your own home. He’s talking about the world.
This album had 5 singles (“i,” The Blacker The Berry, King Kunta, Alright, and These Walls). It had many cool things going for it, including (from Wiki): “The booklet included with To Pimp a Butterfly‘s CD version was produced with braille letterings, which when translated reveal, according to Lamar, the “actual full title of the album.” Complex commissioned a braille translator, who found that it literally translated to A Kendrick by Letter Blank Lamar which Complex noted was most likely supposed to read as A Blank Letter by Kendrick Lamar”.
I could go on. But I sit here wondering if I can even do a record like this justice, and I know that the answer is no. There is so much in here, not to mention the other wealth of stuff between the lines. I probably just listened to a masterpiece that will take years to reveal itself to me. And by then, Kendrick will already be long gone, ahead of the curve and only adding to his legacy.
Thanks Marshall, at Free City Sounds, for the recommendation. I’m gonna need a bunch more listens for it all to really sink into my old brain, but even now I know that this record is damn good.