Quick thoughts on the new Kendrick Lamar – “To Pimp A Butterfly”

This is NOT a review, but rather a reflection. Although it may be categorized as a review, please disregard it.

Upon first listen, To Pimp a Butterfly was a confusing experience. Layered instrumentation, strange interludes, and spoken word outros made my first listen all the more head-scratching. However, now I’m really starting to see the full picture. It’s not the story album that GKMC was, but rather a loose concept about his own personal growth throughout his life. The instrumentals are also insanely rich, and I respect him for picking unique instrumentals to suit his themes, rather than mending “current” beats to his liking.

Furthermore, I really don’t think any rapper out there today quite has the guts, ambition, or vision to make an album such as this. This is the album every rapper hopes to make, or at least tries to make, but never quite reaches.

In an interview with the New York Times, Lamar is quoted: “I’m the closest thing to a preacher that they have,” said Lamar. “I know that from being on tour — kids are living by my music. My word will never be as strong as God’s word. All I am is just a vessel, doing his work.”

Now, if any other rapper out there today made this same statement, I would immediately assume he/she was completely egotistical and full of themselves. But in this case, I can truly believe those words (to an extent). Sure, he’s no missionary, but Kendrick gave the American people, particularly blacks, the record they never thought they needed. And now that it’s here, we can willingly accept it.

To quote my friend Robert Treanor: “It isn’t looking backward. It’s looking to the future. This is one of the most American records ever made. Music didn’t need this record, the American people needed it.”