Kendrick Lamar has been overly dedicated to his cause since day one, and even told us such in his first project’s title in 2010. In fact, all of his project’s titles over the years have truly represented their creator; K-Dot stays true to himself consistently, bleeding honesty with every word spoken. Mr. Duckworth additionally has always been in tune with his very roots, being born towards the end of the Ronald Reagan era and accompanying cocaine epidemic, not to mention growing up on the streets of Compton during Hip Hop’s original golden era / west-coast-east-coast feud. Since he was a first-hand party to Tupac Shakur’s heavily influential reign as a child, one might could say his career would go down in Hip Hop history as prophetic, the name Kendrick Lamar ringing in as an absolute west coast prodigy. Long live the King.
Ever since his first taste of the spotlight, Kendrick has remained a simple poet who preaches to his generation with a mic and not a pulpit or classroom. His extensive artistic styles were brought out relentlessly on his previous LP good kid, m.A.A.d. city as he went on to rap as his own conscience (“Swimming Pools”) and younger versions of himself (“Backseat Freestyle”). His maximized nostalgia seems to be what makes his MC clock tick; brilliant lines meet passion, and a message for the future presents itself. Our present world is understood better by our relation to the past Kendrick presents to us in his music time and time again.
Ever since the universal acclaim of gkmc in 2012, Lamar has somehow successfully remained out of the spotlight that has been persistently chasing him. Even after being nominated for a Grammy and losing to Mackelmore, opening for Kanye West on his Yeezus tour, performing a live collaboration with (all the craze here..) Imagine Dragons, and making two appearances on Saturday Night Live; Kendrick remained humble, appreciative, and focused for whatever was next. We should have seen what was coming next through all of his publicity working with modern day jazz head producers FlyLo and Thundercat. That’s what you will notice first upon the opening ten minutes of the apparent prematurely released To Pimp A Butterfly.
Officially the junior album from Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly holds our artist at his full potential, aggressive and unapologetic. Like a caterpillar who nests up in a cocoon, transforms and grows wings, eventually taking flight, Kendrick currently would like for us all to swallow that his wings will not be clipped, nor his colors hidden. On track three “King Kunta”: Bitch where were you when I was walkin/Now I run the game got the whole world talkin/ King Kunta everybody wanna cut the legs off him/ Kunta/Black man taking no losses.”
Over the past few years, there have been culture shocking events that have effected both the black and white community. Cases such as Trayvon Martin and the (still current) Ferguson riots have naturally influenced Kendrick to speak on modern day racism, doing his very fucking best to shine a bright light through all the darkness. Tracks such as “Institutionalized”, “These Walls” or “Alright” represent this reoccurring theme, scattered in between the notion to hold onto what your momma always told you. “Nigga we gon be all right”.
The production side of things are that of a masterpiece. Featuring multiple layers throughout, there are no sounds of the enduring 79 minute project that are out of place. Free-base jazz has moments that parallel a Lamar who flows right with the fast pace quandary effortlessly. Multiple atmospheres are built and broadly expanded upon over and over. Note the way “For Sale?-Interlude” just glides along but has so much going on at the same time – the choir harmonizing their way in and out of the background as Thundercat’s bass chords remedy heaven itself. The sampling plays into Kendrick’s past as well, matching nods to old Cali-based producers with simple jazzy bass lines that carry a good portion of the album.
To Pimp A Butterfly will go down in history as a legendary, trademark album for the Hip Hop genre. Not in nearly two decades has any artist come into the game that has spoken directly to the generations struggling with the same problems. Kendrick doesn’t do it for his album to go platinum; it’s not about the numbers for him. Kendrick Lamar is an artist of the times, a vigilante who seeks no recognition. Pay no mind, he still wears the crown.