After the tirade, hype and press surrounding the album, Kendrick Lamar’s highly anticipated release To Pimp a Butterfly was surmounted with huge expectations. The albums initial singles “i” and “The Blacker the Berry” left the music community ambivalent as to the musical direction of the album. Two diametrically opposed sounds left hip-hop audiences craving for a cohesive LP which would contextualise these two extremes of self-love and Malcom-esque Black Nationalism. Having allowed the dust to settle two weeks after the albums dramatic and impactful release, we at MusicUmpire intend to sit down and critically dissect the LA rapper’s second major album release.
The album starts off with a complete disregard of the aesthetic which introduced Kendrick’s first album Good Kid M.A.A.D City with the use of deep soul riffs and funky grooves. With tracks such as “Westley’s Theory” and “King Kunta”, Kendrick evokes the ghost of Black Soul. After the fifth track, things start to get more diverse; tracks like “u” and “Hood Politics” begin to introduce some of the sounds that we are familiar with when it comes to Kendrick Lamar.
Unlike many other projects, however, To Pimp a Butterfly really begins to show its strength near to the albums conclusion, the flagship single of this album “i” takes an intriguing twist on the LP version with the original radio edit unabashedly replaced with a live recorded version which really emphasises the energy of the track, presenting a pleasing teaser for all those who plan to hear the album performed. The album closes with a powerful and compelling track “Mortal Man” which reveals a heartfelt performance from Kendrick reminiscent to his “The Heart” series. The album fades out to an eerie back and forth between Kendrick and the late LA rapper Tupac in a cunningly edited interview from the hip hop legend.
This album is impactful, personal, musical and revolutionary. What makes the album fall short of a perfect standing is its various sounds which lacks cohesiveness. I am aware of “To Pimp a Butterfly’s” musical direction, however the palette seems ever so slightly disharmonious: I feel that the album could have revisited some of the sounds and themes that established some of the stand out points of the album. In short, what Kendrick Lamar has done is amazing but there are, unfortunately, tracks on “To Pimp a Butterfly” that can be skipped.
Top Tracks: “Hood Politics”, “You Ain’t Gotta Lie”, “Mortal Man”
Click on the link below to purchase To Pimp A Butterfly: