MUSIC REVIEW | Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

Kendrick 2

When I decided to listen to and write about Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.Ad city, it was totally based on the barrage of amazing reviews and word of mouth I’d read and heard for this year’s follow up.  I can’t remember the last time an album generated so much praise and unsolicited conversation with people I know.  And that lead to an awesome, belated discovery with good kid, m.A.Ad city.  So now it’s time to see if that praise and unsolicited conversation starter lives up to that praise and unsolicited conversation, as well as the high precedent set by its predecessor.  It’s time to dive into To Pimp a Butterfly

With its wahed out, synth bass line, and disco-like falsetto vocals, Wesley’s Theory immediately throws a level of funk and groove at me that I don’t remember hearing much of on good kid.  But, when you collaborate with George Clinton, funk and groove are inevitable.  Too bad it’s followed up by one of the most inessential, tossed off songs I have ever heard in my life.  For Free? is as gimmicky lyrically as it is masturbatory in its free form jazz instrumentation.

But To Pimp a Butterfly more than makes up for it with King Kunta, possibly my favourite Kendrick Lamar song ever in my long, rich, week long history of listening to his music.  There’s something vintage about, without sounding like parody or pastiche.

Not that I ever found good kid boring or slow, but there’s definitely more urgency to To Pimp a Butterfly.  Songs like These Walls and Alright just sound more visceral and immediate.   Like they were going to be made no matter what.  Even if Kendrick Lamar didn’t exist, these songs somehow would.

While I normally find songs made up of a lot disparate elements lazy and slapped together, like the artists had three half finished songs, and just frankensteined them.  Momma jumps from one sound to another, each weirder than the last.  But every jump makes it better and more interesting.

Like good kid, To Pimp a Butterfly is a sprawling saga, a concept album telling an epic story.  Apparently.  That’s what people have told me, but my attention span and interest in lyrics is nowhere near long enough or deep enough to notice that kind of stuff.  Even without paying specific attention to that side of things, I still totally feel the complexity and layers of How Much a Dollar Cost and so many other songs here.  The feeling and passion behind them are so real and so intense, you almost don’t need the words to get it.

And just when I thought I had already been blown away by To Pimp a Butterfly, it throws i at me.  On an album filled with highly charged lyrics and a darkness that seems synonymies with that lyrical tone, i keeps that dark edge, while wrapping it up in party jam beat and vocal rhythm that’s more than just infectious.  It’s an epidemic.

good kid, m.A.A.d city made, “my friend’s hyperbolic praise seem kind of on the money”.  It also made, “me officially pumped to hear what Kendrick Lamar has done with To Pimp a Butterfly, an album that what I’m told is greatest hip hop album since good kid, m.A.Ad city.”  I don’t listen to nearly enough hip hop to ever have the balls to declare anything the greatest hip album ever made.  But I will say that a week ago, good kid, m.A.A.d city was the greatest hip hop album I had heard in a long, long time.  Now, To Pimp a Butterfly isn’t just the greatest hip hop album l’ve heard since good kid, m.A.A.d city.  It might be the greatest hip album I’ve heard ever.

Kendrick Lamar

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