Kendrick Lamar has placed himself in a class of his own with his most recent album called, “To Pimp A Butterfly.” In just his third album Kendrick has already shown levels of progression parallel to the likes of Outkast.
“To Pimp a Butterfly is the avant-garde insanity that naturally results when such a fiercely eloquent introvert, animated by wrath, gets his hands on Olde English 800 and three saxophones.” (Complex)
What separates Kendrick from his company of peers is the way he is able to connect with his audience. His use of instruments, skits, features, dialogue and expression continues to impress the music world. This album, although dark, outlines important issues that African-Americans have faced for generations. It discusses his depression, racial discrimination and the element of time. In the outro on the song, “i” Kendrick has a chance to speak about how the time is now to stop all the hatred and violence.
The way that Kendrick uses his talent to engage his audience is truly incredible. He encourages his listeners to embrace their identities and to stand up for what they believe in. Kendrick escaped his “hood” surroundings and made it to tell his story. This is a lot more than what most young black men can say who grew up in the same place that Kendrick did. Even though he made it out of that environment Kendrick is still obsessed with where he came from.
Hood Politics ~ This track provides a great release of energy from Kendrick as he snaps on a well produced track. The most memorable part of this song is at the end when the beat completely drops out and switches to an aggressive and drowned tune with Kendrick’s altered deep voice, “OBAMA SAY WHAT IT DO?!”
Alright ~ This song is a great song in terms of melody and relief. This song is the one song you could put on and all your friends would be able to enjoy it. This is maybe the only song I think Kendrick would perform from this album. Kendrick performed on the back of a moving truck as a stunt with Reebok and only played m.A.A.d. city tracks. TDE artist, Isaiah Rashad loves this song and played it in Syracuse at the end of his concert. Twice.
On “Institutionalized,” he confesses: “I’m trapped inside the ghetto, and I ain’t proud to admit it/Institutionalized: I keep running back for a visit.” This album is so dense that at times it is difficult to understand what Kendrick is trying to achieve. He discusses paradoxes, contradictions, and various barriers that take a lot of deep listening to truly unpack.
On the song, “The Blacker The Berry” Kendrick claims he’s the biggest hypocrite of 2015 for his role within the black community. Because how dare he try to protest white power? In his eyes that’s hypocritical because the landscape of this world we live in would never allow for an educated black man to have the amount of power that Kendrick does. It’s almost as he is alienated by fame and nobody can get through to him. This is how he views the world and he is letting us know on this album.
Complexion (A Zulu Love) ~ “I don’t see Compton, I see something that’s much worse, the land of the land mines, the hell that’s on Earth.” Kendrick feels that returning to his neighborhood has left him contrasted, “Should I get out the car?” with whether to help or stay out of the way from the streets that influenced his upbringing in a major way.
This album is a combination of spiritual crises and black thoughts. Kendrick outlines his struggles throughout each and every song. A common theme on the album is the outro that Kendrick manages to incorporate into the end of most songs on the album. It goes like this,
“I remembered 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 screamin’ in the hotel room
I didn’t wanna self destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went runnin’ for answers.” (Rap Genius)
The meaning is as follows…