WORDS || Sarah Basford
Kendrick have a dream; it was probably this album.
He’s back with a work that is darker than ever, but somehow still funky and soulful. To Pimp a Butterfly is Lamar’s eloquent answer to Yeezus; a Spike Lee fightback album of sorts. It takes similar themes shown in Yeezus of racial oppression and the commercialisation of black culture, but offers a more reflective spin. Every bar that Lamar spits out helps weave stories from ‘the hood’, which play out as lively allegories for wider social issues.
Interludes and dialogues (including a feature from your man, Tupac) are littered throughout the 16 track album, and serve to remind the listeners (if they’d somehow forgotten) of the political and social issues that form the foundations of each track. The spoken outro for ‘Mortal Man’, clocking in at an impressive (or painful; it’s a matter of perspective) 12 minutes, offers an explanation for the controlled chaos that has played out up until that point. While the story isn’t as clear cut as the tales told in good kid, m.A.A.d city, Butterfly’s strength lies in its passion and intrigue.
Lamar has made a politically conscious decision to trace the story of a young African American male (the caterpillar) living in Compton (his cocoon) striving to better himself (become the butterfly). The racial issues and movements in modern day America, such as the recent Ferguson riots, and previously, the shooting of Trayvon Martin, have become increasingly prevalent in mainstream media, and Lamar’s lyrics reflect these social changes (most notably in ‘The Blacker The Berry’). However, the upbeat, and alarmingly catchy, ‘i’ is a welcome shift from self-doubting lyrics, offering an uplifting end to the album.
In terms of actual sound, this isn’t your standard hip hop; rather, something more on par with early Outkast. The spirit of ATliens and Aquemini can be heard throughout the album which is seamlessly infused with G-Funk strings and D’Angelo-sounding soul creating a truly distinct West Coast/Compton flava.
Standouts: ‘The Blacker The Berry’, ‘Institutionalized’ and ‘Complexion (Zulu Love)’ – but honestly, all of them.