TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY — KENDRICK LAMAR
DISCLAIMER: Ok so I just wanna be open about something…I’m not the biggest KENDRICK fan. Hear me out though! I mean that to say — I haven’t been following him as long as many of you guys have been. HE IS IN MY TOP 5! What I’m tryna say is there’s a lot to this album and I’m for sure not the best authority on all things KENDRICK. This also isn’t an album analysis. Despite that though, my unpackings of it will be sprinkled in here and there.
…if anyone’s still here reading this…these are the top 5 pimped out tracks that we’ve been BUMPIN’:
5. “MORTAL MAN”
“Shit and that’s all I wrote”
Ok ok, now I know what y’all are thinking — “HOW’S THIS NOT #1?”!!
Not gunna lie, this would definitely be way higher up on this list if it wasn’t spoiled for me. DAT’S RIGHT, THANX INTERNETS! That being said, that doesn’t take anything away from the track itself. By now you gotta be living under a rock not to have heard it but, if you really haven’t yet, this track is a must!
Just be sure to listen to it (and in order of the tracklist). We even put it last in our playlist for ya! [BUTTERFLY]
4. “HOW MUCH A DOLLAR COST”
“Cause now I’m starin’ back at him, feelin’ some type of disrespect”
As I’ve said before guys, I love a track that has a story to it and this is one of them. “HOW MUCH A DOLLAR COST” centers a supposed interaction between KENDRICK and an unknown panhandler in a parking lot. As the song goes, the panhandler stares unrelentingly at KENDRICK as he is adamant about getting a dollar from him. Challenged by his gaze, KENDRICK paints a vivid image of his anger towards the panhandler, as he doesn’t feel entitled to give any of his money away. As a common sight in NYC, we related, as many of us have been in KENDRICK’s position — un-empathetic, avoiding the stares all together. After all, we earned our money. Why do we have to give it away to a stranger? Even a dollar. But wait, there’s a plot twist! [COCOON]
3. “KING KUNTA”
“Bitch where you when I was walkin’? Now I run the game, got the whole world talkin’, King Kunta”
This shit is hard! (in Snoop’s voice). While this isn’t KENDRICK’s most lyrical or conscious track off the record, it’s still a killer jam. The grove and natural bounce of this is super reminiscent of fellow Compton native, Dr. Dre’s 90’s G-Funk sound. A great nod to Snoop and Nate D-O-double-G, as well as to the west coast. They say “success is the best revenge” and this is the anthem. Definetly something you play while you’re cruising down the freeway after smokin’ ya ememieees. [CATERPILLAR]
“I fuckin’ hate you I hope you embrace it”
This is where it starts getting really good. Coming straight down from his feelings of pride and showin’ up haters as in “KING KUNTA”, KENDRICK’s feelings dramatically shift on this track. The smooth almost-spacey jazz instrumental mirror the in-and-out effects of being tipsy as KENDRICK is drinks and spills his sorrows on this track. Alone in a hotel room, he is tormented by the same aforementioned success. Tormented by not having come home to Compton, to his family, or even to see a dying friend; things that build him up to be who he his today. KENDRICK’s inflection then changes as he is then talking through his tears. He goes on to address his newfound depression and deep suicidal thoughts. There’s so much intensity to this track and chills run down my spine hearing this every time. [COCOON]
1. “THE BLACKER THE BERRY”
“I’m a proud monkey”
*praying hands emoji* KING KENDRICK!
When this track was first released as a single I couldn’t listen to it (for good reasons). By far the most aggressive track off the album, the trifecta of the booming instrumental, KENDRICK’s flow, and his content were too much for me to want to digest on a NYC bus. It was a little like listening to a Rick Rubin Beastie Boyz tracks for the first time — you know it’s gunna be good and loud but you just have to be in a certain place to listen to it. And once you do, the track itself takes you to a different place. Having confronted his thoughts, trials, and tribulations through the whole album, KENDRICK has now emerged a new, more powerful self. I’m a proud monkey. A term as disgusting as the N-word, KENDRICK proclaims and embraces being a “monkey” as well as all other Black stereotypes. In a meta way, he raps through the stereotype of the “angry Black man”. On the mic, he attacks the Black/White racial politics that — from start, have destroyed and disenfranchised the image of a Black man, as well as, Black culture and their communities. By acknowledging that evil in the manner he does, KENDRICK truly disempowers the “black heart(s) of an Arian(s) he speaks on. He doesn’t stop there.
A twist once more, KENDRICK then fires it back onto himself; the hypocrite. There’s no doubt, the level of wrong and harm caused by racial politics however, he questions, how much of it can be attested to himself? To gangbangers, to others within his own community? How much anger and animosity can he possibly have forthe other when his own have killed others “blacker” than him. [BUTTERFLY]
I know I said this wasn’t going to be an album analysis but it’s near impossible to say anything about it without a mention. The [CATERPILLAR] to [BUTTERFLY] metaphor he expresses on “MORTAL MAN” is in fact mind-blowing. Not as a cop-out but I honestly couldn’t do it justice with a only summary. A cultivation of KENDRICK’s last three years of life experience, TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY; is through and through a work of art. From concept to execution, start to finish. A real masterpiece of it’s kind.