I have something to confess: at first listen to Kendrick Lamar’s newest album To Pimp a Butterfly, I was half-paying attention. I was busy doing other things, and didn’t catch the beauty and nuances of this album. I recently re-listened to this album and found it more insightful than anything else I’ve listened to recently.
To Pimp a Butterfly is Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus. The album, where Lamar lays out his guts, is not only a raw assessment of racism and identity, but a masterful feat of production, combining jazz, spoken word and rap.
Lamar, known for writing his music from his own life experiences, highlights the differences between his two different lives in this album. The dichotomy between the two identities–one of a wealthy artist on tour and the other who still feels like a struggling kid in Compton–is highlighted in the album.
The album, at first, is confusing, reeling. It can take some time to become fully acquainted with it, but once you are, you can see what Kendrick Lamar is really saying–that people are nuanced, that change happens quickly and without much foresight and the harsh history of America has openly disadvantaged his friends and family–he was just lucky to get out (or maybe he wasn’t).
The best part of the album, for me, is in the song “Mortal Man,” where Kendrick asks Tupac (his idol) about struggling with fame. Tupac answers, from an old interview, with surprising gentleness and wisdom. The song ends.
Kendrick Lamar isn’t Tupac, but he can definitely try to make the same kind of incredible art.
You can listen to To Pimp a Butterfly on Spotify, or purchase it on Amazon.