Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Released: 15 March 2015
I listened to this the day it became available and reserved judgement for 2 weeks until I got proper listens in. I managed to avoid all reviews and others opinion of the album up until writing this album review.
After multiple listens I can safely say that TPAB is a great album. What I like about this album the most is that none of it feels forced. From the content to the lyrics to the production it all feels effortlessly natural, even with the uncanny things happening in the album such as Kendrick’s voice changes, his singing moments, and rapping over freestyle instruments.
The first listen was the toughest and most confusing. All the different instruments and production styles being used between the funk and the jazz and the Sounwave drums, plus the different concepts Kendrick deployed was a lot to take in at once. At one point I (mistakenly) thought the album felt more like an R&B album; I also thought the hooks felt forced – I had the feeling that this album would be a grower.
Every time I listen to this album I feel like it gets better; some of the music already feels timeless in a way. The Blacker the Berry, Complexion, You Ain’t Gotta Lie, These Walls…these are a few tracks that already feel timeless to me and have gotten better with each listen. TPAB also plays well in sequence or on shuffle.
The production on this album is magnificent. My favorite production moment on the album is the 2nd beat on “u”
The lyrics and content are filled with substance and purpose, yet still remain lyrical. My favorite verses on the album are the verses on “The Blacker the Berry” (particularly the 1st and last verses), the 2nd verse on “How Much A Dollar Cost?“, and the last verse on “Mortal Man“. It’s no surprise that these are also the most powerful songs on the album, along with “i” and “For Sale? (Interlude)“.
My favorite song on the album is “Hood Politics” and my favorite feature is Snoop on “Institutionalized“; Snoop fits so well in that song. With all of the features that he does, this one is one of his better recent ones. He played a small role but played it well.
There’s only one song on the album that I don’t see myself keeping in rotation and that’s “u“. Not because it’s bad, but because of how personal, dramatic, and emotional the song is – it’s too much for me to hear on a regular basis.
The Genius of “Institutionalized”
“Institutonalized“ has been sticking with me hard. Kendrick’s verse on“Institutonalized“ where he’s rapping from his homie’s institutionalized POV is so good. The part where Kendrick said that he caught word that one of his homies was thinking about robbing rappers for their jewelry when he took them to the BET Awards..then his homie said
“Fuck am I s’posed to do when I’m lookin’ at walkin’ licks?
The constant talk bout the mansions and foreign whips
The private jets and passports, presidential glass floor
Gold bottles, gold models, sniffin’ up the ass for
Instagram flicks, suck a dick, fuck is this?
One more suck away from wavin’ flashy wrist
My defense mechanism tell me to get him, quickly because he got it
If it’s a recession, then why the fuck he at King of Diamonds?
No more livin’ poor, meet my .44
When I see ’em, put the per diem on the floor
Now Kendrick, know they’re your co-workers
But it’s gon’ take a lot for this pistol go cold turkey
Now I can watch his watch on the TV and be okay…
But see I’m on the clock once that watch landin’ in LA
Remember steal from the rich and givin’ it back to the poor?
Well that’s me at these awards
I guess my grandmama was warnin’ a boy”
I think it’s dope how Kendrick flipped how someone can be institutionalized. Instead of the typical “trapped in middle class america rat race” example he gives us an example of how someone can be institutionalized by the hood. Then that Robin Hood metaphor at the end. Whew.
This album is, in a lot of ways, what I thought it would be based off his pre-album movements. It’s pro-Black, which I thought it would be, there’s tons of live instrumentation, and it’s aggressive like I also presumed. It’s a very well put together album and you can clearly tell the time in between GKMC and this album was spent polishing and upping the quality of this album.
It wasn’t too long ago when people thought Kendrick would fall off and go Pop after GKMC based off his features. TPAB is the furthest thing from what we’d consider mainstream pop rap today and I feel like those who thought it would be pop rap are the ones who are disappointed with this album. Although pro-Black and aggressive in ways, I feel like this is still a very accessible album to others and any fan of music. Kendrick’s best album. I copped my physical copy last week to support and you should do the same.