Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ album review
By Alex Stanton, Staff Writer
Kendrick Lamar’s debut studio album good kid, m.A.A.d city was nothing short of the greatest rap album of the year, and perhaps the greatest deconstruction of gangster rap since the genre’s creation in the days of Dre and friends. Lamar crafted a concept album that explained, in the grittiest and most honest detail, what life was actually like growing up as an underprivileged, black male living in Compton.
On his latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, Lamar hopped out of his storytelling chair and decided to create an album that lacked a storyline yet contained a unifying theme among all of the tracks: racism and the black experience in America.
The tracks have many influences, from George-Clinton-style funk (the man himself appears on the opening track), to spoken word poetry (arguably a precursor to hip hop), and even to avant-garde free jazz. Lamar brings back Dr. Dre and Top Dawg as executive producers, among the likes of newcomers Pharrell Williams and Flying Lotus, whose sound works so well with Lamar’s verses that you question why they weren’t on good kid, m.A.A.d city. Lamargoes absolutely borderline experimental with his production on To Pimp a Butterfly. It’s not quite as accessible as his previous record, but it rewards open ears with attention to production detail.
“i,” the first single from the album, is an incredibly upbeat, borderline funk rock cut that’s a far cry from the rapper’s more serious work. That said, it is extremely catchy and certainly first single material, while its theme of being proud of yourself no matter what fits wonderfully into the overall theme of the record.
Single two, “The Blacker the Berry,” is an emotional tour de force for an artist who, as it is, throws everything he has into every song. He lashes out at the racial injustice in America with a fury unmatched by any of his past performances.
Lamar has followed up his major label debut with what could be considered the Great American Rap Album.