New Stories

To Pimp a Butterfly: Kendrick’s Best Work Yet?

by Ben Garfinkel

Since the release of his seminal debut, “good kid, m.A.A.d. city,” in 2012, the anticipation for Kendrick Lamar’s follow-up albums has been high. Hip-hop-talk-show hosts, like those on Power 105.1 and Hot 97, periodically discussed how they hoped Lamar would release new music.

In February, fans went crazy when Lamar announced his plan to release his second major-label album the following month. Fans’ excitement increased when the album dropped a week early, on March 16, rather than the original release date, March 23, due to an error made by Interscope Records, Lamar’s label.

KendrikIn the first 24 hours after the album’s release, “To Pimp a Butterfly” was streamed 9.6 million times on Spotify–a new record.

Critics labeled the record a “concept album” because it defies all genres while simultaneously fitting into a large handful of them. Combining elements of funk, jazz, blues, soul, R&B, hip-hop, and rock into one cohesive sound would be difficult for any artist, but for Lamar to do so in such a spectacular manner is truly unprecedented. Lamar pushed the boundaries of what can be considered hip-hop with this album, but he did not do so alone.

Lamar has a team of incredibly talented musicians and producers: George Clinton, Snoop Dogg, Thundercats, and Bilal some notable among them. The wide varieties of musical influences characterized by these artists are all represented on the album and flavored with Lamar’s particular tinge of melodic lyrical complexity.

Three tracks were released as singles: “i,” “The Blacker the Berry,” and “King Kunta.” All of these have strong messages that encourage self-confidence and shed light on the fight for racial equality.

The rest of the album is flush with these themes, and also includes a pensive reflection of the highs and lows brought to Kendrick’s life by his fame.

“To Pimp a Butterfly”is a must-listen for fans of Lamar’s music or hip-hop in general. Though it is not what one would consider a stereotypical contemporary rap album, it is still great music.

“Wesley’s Theory,” “Alright,” and “Hood Politics” are standout tracks.

In a recent interview with MTV. Lamar said the album was originally supposed to have a different title. It was to be called “To Pimp a Caterpillar,” which would have been abbreviated as “2.P.A.C.” to pay homage to the legendary West Coast hip-hop and cultural icon, Tupac Shakur.

The album sits atop the Billboard charts two weeks after its release.

 

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