Rapper Kendrick Lamar released his new album, To Pimp a Butterfly, on March 16, 2015. It is the third album in his discography, and his first since Good Kid, M.A.D.D. City, in 2012. The album is very vulgar, and parental discretion is advised.
Born in notorious Compton, California in 1987, Kendrick has earned massive critical praise as a rapper whose reign will extend for as long as he keeps rapping. You likely know the infamous neighborhood of Compton, given that Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and the rest of NWA gave national attention to it with their hit song Straight Outta Compton. He has earned various accolades, such as MTV naming him “Hottest MC in the Game” in 2013. Although Lamar has been recording since 2003, his first widely popular album, Section. 80, released in 2011. In the short time To Pimp a Butterfly has been out, it has received incredibly positive reviews from major critics. Pitchfork gave it a 9.3/10 and Billboard gave it 4.5 stars.
To Pimp a Butterfly is an album clearly deeply rooted in hip-hop tradition. It calls to mind the works of NAS and other 90’s/early 00’s rappers. Lamar introduces a wide variety of instruments to give his songs various and differentiating textures. A drum beat generally backs him on each track, and guitars, a keyboard (and even sparingly a saxophone) provide a very consistent, smooth background for Lamar to place his lyrics.
Of course, front and center in To Pimp a Butterfly is Lamar’s vocal performance, which is stellar. The viciously emotional performance delivered by Lamar on the albums tracks emphasize the meaning behind the lyrics and help the listener connect with Lamar’s troubles.
Lyrically, the album is clearly inspired by Lamar’s struggles dating back to being born in crime-stricken Compton, despite being a straight-A student at the local high school.Lamar talks about the sad state of the people that were around him when he lived in Compton, and talks extensively about the evils of “Lucy”, street slang for LSD.
In summary, To Pimp a Butterfly is a fantastic album, probably one of the best to release this year. Lamar’s performance is unique and memorable, as he doesn’t bother imitating the styles of rappers that came before him. The messages Lamar delivers in his lyrics he delivers are worth appreciating for yourself. If rap isn’t generally your prefered music, but you would still like to acquire a taste, this album is perfect for you.