written by Michael Owino (@mikoniablogs)
It’s somewhat hard to digest what Mr. Duckworth has contributed to hip-hop, and what’s more stimulating is, he still has a rare portion to share amongst us. To Pimp A Butterfly is not an album filled with radio friendly hits, or in any way relatable to his predecessor, good kid, M.A.A.D City. The divergence of this record is unquestionable, and once again proves that no rapper, as of today, is as creatively gifted in music than Kendrick Lamar.
The flair of the production takes a new, swift approach. The embodiment of funk is widely apparent, and I haven’t been taken back, since OutKast dropped their gem, Aquemini. “Every ni—er is a star” is heavily repeated at the start of To Pimp A Butterfly. “Wesley’s Theory ft. George Clinton & Thundercat” breaks down a young, ignorant Kendrick Lamar, on what he intends to do, when getting signed onto a major record label. Although Uncle Sam (a.k.a capitalism) has other ideas, by manipulating his choices on what he pursues, thus leading to bankruptcy. The direction in storytelling enters a new apex, in what’s possibly the most fitting way to commence the album.
Kendrick Lamar let’s fans know he is driven by guilt, “The Blacker, The Berry”, depression “u”, greed “How Much A Dollar Cost” as well as self-importance, “i”. Besides the rather emotional tales, “For Free?” and “For Sale?” play out uniquely well. “For Free?” is based on a woman questioning Kendrick’s services towards her, and how he fails to supply her needs. Kendrick let’s her know “This d-ck ain’t free” in the most comedic way possible. Conversely, “For Sale?” surrounds Lucy, portrayed by the Devil. Kendrick is being forced to seek knowledge from somebody who has shadowed him, ever since the opening lines of good kid, M.A.A.D City, when he and his friends commenced a prayer.
I can’t give full the praise to Kendrick Lamar. The cast of features go from the likes of George Clinton, transporting purified funk vocals on “Wesley’s Theory”, to Snoop Dogg, turning the clock back in “Institutionalized”, by supplementing a nostalgic flow, to satisfy all fans of all ages. The singer, Anna Wise, who was heavily involved in good kid, M.A.A.D City, returns in a few tracks, notably on “These Walls”. Impactful vocal chords are once again maintained by Anna Wise. One of my favourite underground rappers, Rapsody, wraps her dome in one of the most important tracks on the record, “Complexion”. The outspoken Tupac Shakur is featured towards the end, and this is what makes this album so alluring. Modern technology allows the interview between the two rappers, feel so organic and life like. “Mortal Man” concludes the poem, read by Kendrick Lamar in segments upon the record. The two have a heart-to-heart conversation to how society is today.
The timing of Black Messiah by D’Angelo is just as important as To Pimp A Butterfly. The last twelve months hit an all-time low, surrounded by the injustice and the corruption of the policing system in the United States. The prominence on moving forward from such events, motivated such artists as Kendrick Lamar. In retrospect, not many records come close to how influential and effective To Pimp A Butterfly will be remembered in time. But right now let’s just soak in the brilliance on the state of mind of Kendrick Lamar. There’s just too many signature moments, which make it an instant classic.
Album Picks: Wesley’s Theory, Institutionalized, Hood Politics