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REVIEW | Kendrick Lamar, “To Pimp a Butterfly” review

Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp a Butterfly" has received rave reviews since its release. (Wikimedia Commons)
Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” has received rave reviews since its release. (Wikimedia Commons)

Recently rapper Kendrick Lamar released his second major-label album, “To Pimp a Butterfly” a week before its original release date. As a K. Dot fan, of course, I had to grab it and give it a listen.

For those who’ve been following Lamar’s journey in the hip hop game, the Mar. 16 release of “To Pimp a Butterfly” definitely treks on an experimental trail in his sound — something far away from his 2012 album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” (GKMC). With this album Lamar smoothly experiments with genres such as funk, spoken word and jazz through its production.

The album’s first track, “Wesley’s Theory,” opens the listener’s journey with a bit of funk elements, accompanied by well-known funk band Parliament member George Clinton and bass player Thundercat. With this funky tune, he explores the “pimping” of successful black artists in the entertainment business. A bit risky, isn’t it, K. Dot? I think so, considering that Lamar is teetering around with his status as a successful black rapper and his own emotions about being “turned out” by the industry.

Lamar is also known for capturing different perspectives and giving stories life (as seen in G.K.M.C’s “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”). Lamar pushes this specific trademark further in his song “These Walls.” This track features singers Anna Wise and Bilal, playing different voices about good and evil in the mind. With this track, Lamar delves into his emotions, sexuality, his own career and his conscience through crafty wordplay (particularly with the word “walls”) and multiple perspectives.

However, what makes this album such a great step from his past work is his confessions of confusion and oxymorons as he explores his growth as a rapper and man. Each song gives a bit of vulnerability, a piece of him as he treks through his emotions through this album.

For example, he discusses his feelings of hypocrisy in his identity and standards in the Black community in “The Blacker the Berry”. What grabbed me in a shocking way (and potentially any listener) is his final bars in the song about the systemic violence against and in the Black community (“So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street / When gang members make me kill a n—- blacker than me?”).

In short, Lamar’s not afraid to take it there about his observations and feelings in this album. Lamar has made bold and daring moves in “To Pimp a Butterfly,” from the album title to production to his lyrical content. Although many rappers and hip hop artists have done and said what Lamar is doing through this work, what sets “To Pimp a Butterfly” apart is that his believable journey is displayed in the album.

Overall, this album is worth the listen and heavy rotation. Speaking of which …

Tracks on heavy rotation: “Wesley’s Theory,” “The Blacker the Berry,” “These Walls,” “Mortal Man,” “Alright,” “King Kunta.”