To Pimp A Butterfly – Music Review by Ashley Reynolds
To Pimp A Butterfly
I’m absolutely in love with Kendrick Lamar at that this point in my life. Going back to the summer of 2011, when I had my first listen to his independently released album, Section.80, I knew that he would be a force in the industry. And his sound hasn’t changed. By now, you know that when you hear a Kendrick Lamar track or feature, you’re going to get authenticity. And in a time when every other rapper is a carbon copy, I love that we can depend on him to put his artistry over fame and radio bangers.
good kid, m.A.A.d city was awesome, but To Pimp A Butterfly is history. BLACK history. Funk, jazz, blues, spoken word, the samples – black history. I get the feeling that Kendrick put his all into each and every track, including the interludes. I have to say, For Free? and For Sale? are just as good as the songs.
Abnormally, I find myself at a loss for words as I write this – trying to organize my thoughts without getting carried away. I’m just, in a nutshell, overwhelmed with passion. I expected something good, but NOT anything like this.
Socially conscious? Sure. Maybe a little. But this album is way more than just an industry phrase to categorize “eloquent Negroes”. It’s a testament to the fact that no matter how much money, power, or success you have, we all still deal with some of the same issues. Self doubt, self consciousness, internal morality battles, skin complexion-complexes, depression, feelings of neglect and abandonment, questioning your self worth (especially in a time when people of color are still being treated as less than human), wanting to build a united front but allowing our religions, social statuses, cultures, or gang affiliations continue to tear us apart – are just a few of the albums themes that I identified with. I kind of feel like to label this masterpiece as “socially conscious” would be disrespectful. Kendrick packed his life’s insecurities into 16 wonderfully-made tracks that can’t be described as anything but “unapologetically black”.
I can honestly say that “skip” wasn’t, and hasn’t been, hit a single time. I’m in love with the stories and found myself yearning to learn/hear more.
Throughout the album, Kendrick talks about his encounters with Lucy, which I later realized was Lucifer after listening to For Sale? about 4-5 times. Kendrick explains how Lucy hypnotized him with empty promises of power and success. I feel like you have to listen to the album in it’s entirety before you truly understand the purpose of For Sale?. You see, Kendrick’s idol, Tupac struggled with this as well.
Lucy in For Sale? speaking to Kendrick
What’s wrong, n@#ga?
I thought you was keeping it “gangsta”?
I thought that’s what you wanted?
They say “if you scared, go to church”
But remember, he knows the Bible too.
My guess is that this comes from him not being able to handle the success of his first album. Surprisingly enough, Tupac has been quoted talking about this exact struggle. This not being a secret to Kendrick, he recites a poem he wrote for Tupac about the situation, which we later come to know as Another Nigga.
Another Nigga: Kendrick talking to Tupac
I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power, full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screaming in the hotel room
I didn’t wanna self-destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went running for answers
Until I came home
But that didn’t stop “Survivor’s Guilt”
Going back and forth trying to convince myself the stripes I earned
Or maybe how A1 my foundation was
But while my loved ones was fighting a continuous war back in the city, I was entering a new one
A war that was based on apartheid and discrimination
Made me wanna go back to the city and tell the homies what I learned
The word was “Respect”
Just because you wore a different gang color than mines, doesn’t mean I can’t respect you as a black man
Forgetting all the pain and hurt we caused each other in these streets
If I respect you, we unify and stop the enemy from killing us
But I don’t know
I’m no mortal man
Maybe I’m just another n@#ga
With stanzas sprinkled throughout the album, each song helps to build to the final chapter, Mortal Man.
Mortal Man is the perfect piece to complete Another N@#ga’s puzzle. It’s the final song and does a great job summarizing many of the album’s themes. It closes with an eerie conversation that Kendrick has with Tupac about the future of hip hop and black culture. It tripped me out how Tupac was completely in tuned to what’s going on in the world today.
In closing, I haven’t felt this way about a project since The Love Below. And just like The Love Below, To Pimp A Butterfly is off the Richter. It can’t be fairly compared to anything that has come out in the last few years. Seeing as this is an album review and it’s pretty much my responsibility to give it a rating, I’ll grade it an “A”.
Even if you don’t feel the sound, you have to respect the messages. Kendrick is dropping some valuable knowledge, and that, my friends, is priceless.
Special shoutout to iTunes. I don’t think I could’ve waited another week for this.
Written By Ashley Reynolds