If you listen to hip-hop then you’ve probably heard of Kendrick Lamar. If you’ve heard of Kendrick Lamar then you’ve heard of his breakthrough album To Pimp a Butterfly. If you haven’t listened to it yet, stop what you’re doing and listen to it right now.
Before I go forward with this review, I must make a confession. I’m not an expert in the genres of hip hop or rap. I probably couldn’t tell you the difference of the flow and control off the top of my head of Ghostface Killa and Jay Z. I couldn’t talk the fine points of their albums. I couldn’t produce a cartography of their musical progression. I’m a white man from the suburbs. Take that for what it’s worth. What I can do, like most people, is appreciate the work and creativity it takes to make a good album, regardless of genre.
To Pimp a Butterfly is my favorite kind of album, one that is combination of musical styles not necessarily just hip hop or soul or jazz or rock or R&B or psychedelia or funk, but a mixture of all. The talent that went into this album is intimidating to say the least. Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Snoop Dogg, George Clinton, Kamasi Washington, etc, etc… It’s an insane collaborative effort to make an album political, spiritual, social. About feeling guilty of the fame gained while many other’s remain impoverished in Compton. The kind of dehumanizing perspective Kendrick’s gained while obtaining money looking down on a homeless man whom he discovers is Jesus in disguise. The kind of depression he feels of obtaining everything he thought would give fulfillment. Being both admired and being looked down on because of his ethnicity. How to be both praised and condemned. The political outlook for African Americans. The subject matter is layered and inter-contextual to thoughtful lyrics and amazing composition. If you’ve not heard this album yet, I’ll reiterate do yourself a favor and listen to it right now!