To Pimp A Butterfly (Kendrick Lamar) Review

After the wild success of his autobiographical epic good kid, m.a.a.d city, Kendrick Lamar had big expectations to fill with his next album.  He completely succeeded the prior album.  To Pimp a Butterfly is truly a rap masterpiece, taking Kendrick past the limit and allowing him to preach through his rhymes like never before.  I’ll admit, this album is by no means perfection.  In fact, it takes a while for the wheels to start turning and for Kendrick to actually begin dropping what i have been so praising of.  But once it starts, a fury of deep metaphorical messages is unleashed and the genius of Kendrick Lamar explodes onto the later half of the LP.  The only fault I find with this album is that it was a little too musically experimental.  It seems like he’s trying to take the musicality of Hendrix and Lennon into Hip Hop, but it doesn’t work.  Honestly, there are one or two songs that I believe would have served the album better had they been omitted.  That being said, some of Kendrick’s greatest messages can be found once this album gets rolling.  There’s a few songs that I have to spend a little time discussing individually….

“U” proves a stark contrast to the uplifting “I”.  Genius.com says “Kendrick peers deep into the dark caverns of his heart to expose the negative thoughts that plague his mind, at point referring to himself as ‘a f****** failure’.”

“Alright” is a hopeful testimony that God has a plan for Kendrick through all his troubles with “Lucy” (Lucifer/Satan) and other enemies. It also showcases how Kendrick can collaborate greatly with music genius Pharell Williams and is deserving of its multiple Grammy nominations.

“How Much a Dollar Cost” showcases Kendrick’s fantastic skill at storytelling. “He tells the story of a man (who he thinks is a crack addict) asking for 10 Rand (apprrox $1 USD). Initially Kendrick says no and feels resentment as the man who continues to berate him. After asking if he’d read Exodus 14, Kendrick begins to feel guilty and sympathetic towards the man. His selfishness, towards which he attributes his success, eventually comes out most in his interactions with the homeless man. At that point, the man reveals himself to be God – his selfishness and unwillingness to give the homeless man a dollar has cost him his place in Heaven. This revelation harks back to the parable of “The Sheep and the Goat.” Kendrick then repents in the outro, asking God for forgiveness. It’s only now he’s free of Lucy & Uncle Sam – he had to be humbled to be humble. Pointing out that the figurative value of a dollar is far higher than the literal value of a dollar.” (Genius.com)

“The Blacker The Berry”, probably the most impactful track on the album, criticizes the hypocrisy of the fact that he wept for Trayvon Martin, yet he is responsible for the death of a black man.

The positive anthem “I” is absolutely deserving of its two Grammy awards because it is a greatly uplifting song, with an extremely funking backing track, and in it, Kendrick Lamar finds a whole new meaning and pride to the “N-word”.  He jubilantly proves his delight in himself in the extremely catchy hook.

The conversation between Kendrick and Tupac at the end of the final song “Mortal Man” is extremely powerful.  The two poets discuss a poem Kendrick wrote, but then go into deeper discussion about the future of the nation, black culture, fame, and lastly a metaphor describing Kendrick’s life. After Kendrick reads a second poem, and asks for Tupac’s thoughts, it is silent. “At the end, Kendrick calls out to Pac, but he’s not there anymore. He’s left us. He’s left us to find our own answers. We can’t look to the past for everything. We have to be the ones we’ve been waiting for.” (amillionotherstraws)

Although some weak tracks bring this album down, the multiple masterpieces that would’ve made this album an eleven, raise this album to score a 9/10.  Kendrick’s messages are stronger than ever before, and teach a lot to those who listen closely.

“Hip Hip now is all about Money, Bitch and Fame….. After this album i gotta say Kendrick Lamar saved Hip Hop” (RVMIE)

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