Kendrick Lamar is a beast. To Pimp a Butterfly is a masterpiece plain and simple. It’s a stunning piece of musical art that not only fills a null space in the musical landscape, but also propels K-Dot to a status usually reserved for wordsmiths with a larger catalogue. Some are already calling his sophomore a ‘classic’. Presumptuous, yes, but possibly accurate.
It’s easy to complement tracks like the Boi-1da laced “The Blacker the Berry” with its infectious loop and staggering drums. Or praise Rapsody’s spotlight stealing verse on “Complexion”. However, To Pimp a Butterfly is about the sum of its parts. Take for instance the conversation Kendrick restarts repeatedly throughout the album and culminates in a dreamlike conversation with 2Pac or the spoken word inspired “For Free?” that while expertly delivered feels almost satirical. There’s a plethora of thought and emotion placed carefully in every second. Even “i” is magnified by a live rendition interrupted by what seems like police. The shouts and frustration echo those that must have been heard in many similar altercations over the past year.
Through it all Kendrick manages to elevate his technical skills. He’s sharper than ever and delivers multi-layered rhymes with a confidence that belies their depth. Even the lighter tracks like “Hood Politics” are filled with playful runs and inflections that prove Kendrick has no mirror.
What truly is remarkable about To Pimp a Butterfly is the way it manages to deliver its message cinematically without over reaching. It would do these 16 tracks a disservice to try and sum up that message. One thing is for sure though, Kendrick has ignited something in hip-hop. Let’s see how long it burns.
Photos Courtesy Of. Universal Music Canada