Well, well, well – look what we have here.
Modern day hip-hop sensation Kendrick Lamar has surprised the music world with his unexpected release of To Pimp a Butterfly. Lamar blew up the west-coast rap scene with his major-label debut Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City back in 2011, being nominated seven times at the Grammys. Since then, the California rapper has been riding his worldwide success and building suspense as the world anticipated his next release.
Kendrick’s west-coast style is blended together with his own unique take on the genre incorporating experimental electronic elements in the production, especially on the opening track “Wesley’s Theory” and “King Kunta”. The combination between the arbitrary beats and his consistent flow give To Pimp a Butterfly an additional dimension for which Lamar is known.
Jumping around, the track list is anything but steady; choppy beats and cuts show a heavy influence from experimental jazz – “Institutionalized” (which features rap legend Snoop Dogg) is a prime example, with “Alright” slamming together hip-hop, funk and jazz into the beats, and of course Kendrick’s rapping ability takes top spot on the track.
Traditionally, interludes on hip-hop albums tend to be short, sweet and full of dialogue. Not for Kendrick though, with his interludes functioning less as transitions and more as full-blown tracks.
Taking a sudden, aggressive turn, “u” features Kendrick Lamar on a rap-flow rant, then cutting to a Spanish housekeeper, then suddenly back into a saxophone loop topped by a drunken rap, sounding as if he is holding back tears. Fellow flow-based track “Hood Politics” takes the rapper back to his Compton roots, amongst a dense, eerie beat.
Prior to the release, Lamar shared two huge tracks from To Pimp a Butterfly; The Blacker the Berry and i both find their way onto the record. Standing out as the only track with a bounce and positive vibe, “i” spends the final two minutes as a powerful poetic speech about Black power before moving into the final, 12-minute ballad track “Mortal Man”.
Experimental all the way through, To Pimp a Butterfly shows the rapper’s ability to hit the top of the charts and flaunt that his creativity is more than just top 40 worthy. Most of the tracks dip lower in the R&B ambience, with “slow and smooth” being the reoccurring theme, even though the beats tend to jump around uncontrollably. Listen to the full album through Spotify.