Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is full of acidic wit, unparalleled character and enthusiasm. An album worth the wait.
Firstly, whether or not To Pimp a Butterfly is better than good kid, m.A.A.d city is a hard question to answer. Like good kid, m.A.A.d city, it showcases Kendrick’s masses of talent and personality. With 16 tracks it is an expansive body of work, bursting will fully formed ideas that are seething with energy and enthusiasm from an artist who has the capacity to keep going and going, perhaps eventually developing a back catalogue as accomplished as Kanye. He is already well on his way there.
Lamar seems happy this time round; content with his idiosyncrasies and their power to move people. The instrumentation is dripping with innovation while simultaneously retaining its revered old school flavour, and most of all he sounds confident in his rapping and passionate about its content. My first impression was that To Pimp a Butterly has a radical motive that good kid, mAAd city lacked. On his third album there are ongoing allusions to themes as broad as self-love, deep-rooted issues with American history and identity. Issues such as racial inequality, personal struggle, mental health, the pressures of popularity and keeping up with industry big guns are explored with an acid tongue but like always, in a thoughtful, political and poetic manner.
I explores the delicate issues surrounding mental health with the main purpose of educating about the complexities it poses in modern culture. Songs like Wesley’s Theory (feat. Dr. Dre and Thundercat) rehash themes about the US entertainment industry and its metaphorical “pimping” of artists, spun through intense flow patterns and adolescent memoirs about first girlfriends, butterflies and Wesley Snipes (who was embroiled in tax fraud cases throughout the 00s). It’s intensely political but there’s also a whole lot of funk in there as well, and man it makes you want to dance.
To Pimp a Butterfly has funk and soul inscribed all over it. King Kunta preaches, “We want the funk” repeatedly and there are trumpet and sax lines, smooth beats and jazz vibes strewn throughout the 79 minutes. U is an intense listen, discussing the sad realities of Lamar’s inner-conscience, showcasing his vulnerabilities. These Walls, Institutionalised and The Blacker Berry are also standouts, dripping with classic Kendrick steez.
This record perfectly encapsulates how Kendrick has become one of the boldest and innovative rappers in the game. Lyrically and instrumentally the album is next level. Lamar delicately but confidently approaches complex yet universal themes with unparalleled intelligence, and as a person he is honest and humble, making him one of the most celebrated rappers today. To Pimp a Butterfly was absolutely an album worth waiting for.
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