TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY: A REVIEW

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by Ladi

This is a review of the third studio album  of Kendrick Lamar. Click here for a review of his previous album which was the first ever review on this site.

Wesley’s theory Ft George Clinton & Thundercat

First song on the LP has Kendrick fantasizing about all the awesome stuff he’s gonna do when he gets guap.  He mentioned a whole lotta stuff…  go listen -__- .  The song also features a call from Dr Dre advising Kendrick on staying relevant and Uncle Sam making him proposition of the good life.   The beginning of his journey as a caterpillar.

For free?  (Interlude)

Energetic and up beat jazz that will keep you wanting more.  The caterpillar’s journey continues and this section talks about bottom of the food chain nigga.  Also exploitation of a rising talent. References Made to Uncle Sam and Lucy.

King Kunta

The journey moves further with the acquisition of more fame and money.  k. dot makes references to the story of Kunta Kinte who had his leg cut off as a slave but went on from  slave to scholar so also  k. dot.  from bottom of the food chain to stardom “ bitch where were you when i was working,  now i run the game,  got the whole world talking KING KUNTA,  everybody wanna cut the legs off  ya”…

Institutionalized ft. Bilal, Anna Wise & Snoop Dogg 

Moving on, he’s got the fame and money and talks about the influence of this new acquired lifestyle on his person. “So many rolllys around you and you want all of em”…   standard nigga behaviour confounded on him cos of the cocoon he’s in.

These walls…  Ft Bilal, Anna wise & Thundercat 

Still under the influence of fame, this song starts with moan sounds and has Kendrick describing the vagina like he’s describing a well painted portrait or intricate work of art.  “these walls are vulnerable,  exclamation,  interior  pink,  colour co-ordinated,  I interrogate  it,  every nook and cranny “…   the last verse,  k. dot takes us back to sing about me off GKMC as he mentions that these walls belong to the baby mama of the gangbanger that killed his friend from sing about me.

U

After all the random escapades it seems the caterpillar is going through a period of self-loathing and self-disappointment.  Here we hear what seems like a conversation with himself.  Emotional stuff. Hence the screams at the beginning of the track followed by the intro “loving you is complicated “…   Disappointed because his preaching didn’t get to his sister (she still got pregnant) and also for leaving his friend’s brother whom he promised to watch over.  We also see tendencies of suicide towards the end of the song.

Alright

” reaping everything   I sow so my karma coming heavy  no preliminary hearing “…  coming out of the depressed  state,  he comes out to say things gon be alright as long as he’s right with  God.  The second verse has Lucy offering him the goodies of the world.  “I’m at the preacher’s door my knees getting weak and my gun might blow but we gon be alright “…  You have to admit it, the flow sounds like something you can nae nae too.  Listen!

For sale?  (Interlude)

The song starts with the sound of someone panting like he’s been running from something.  With references to Lucy again here we hear Lucy introducing herself and further offering Kendrick big things “Lucy gon fill your pockets, Lucy gon move your momma outta Compton inside the gigantic mansion like I promise “… 

Momma

Still in the development phase, nostalgic now.  Kendrick raps about going back to ones roots, keeping culture alive in all we do. That as much as we want to acquire knowledge/gain fame we shouldn’t forget our roots.

Hood politics

Started with such a smooth flow, why’d it have to end?  😥

lol-sad-music

Back home (the cocoon ) the caterpillar continues to survive,  with particular reference to the fight for power in the ghetto  “From Compton to Congress, Set trippin’ all around,  Ain’t nothin new but a flow of new DemoCrips and ReBloodlicans,  Red state versus a blue state, which one you governin? “

How much a dollar cost Ft James Fauntleroy & Ronald Isley

This has the scenery set at a gas station where a homeless crack addict asking for some money with the excuse that he wants to eat and k.dot refused with the excuse  that he has also been in that state and he worked his way to the top so why can’t he do the same?  Hard work pays.

Complexion (Zulu love) ft. Rapsody

Talks basically about racism at large.  Talks about the fact that colour shouldn’t make people rivals at all.  We should all unite.

The blacker the berry

Blacker the berry is actually a book whose contents had to do with the Negro lifestyle then. And equally the song also has gist relating profiling that occurs as a result of thick, dark racism.      Kendrick Lamar used himself in the place of the entire black race and how it suffers the deep stares of racism.  The imagery here was very clear and vivid.  The delivery was on fire yo. And there was this part where he kept on  repeating  the fact that he’s an hypocrite,  and we’ll soon figure out : this part actually says blacks engage  in gang banging,  killing unnecessarily  and they were suffering  the  same from the opposing race…  so we all hypocrites in  The end.   Funny how this song drops 2 or 3 days immediately after “the great” Grammy awards…

You ain’t gotta lie (momma said)

The song talks about the usual lies niggas will tell gain stats or feel important.  Seeing that the song’s title reads “momma said” it’s possible these words of advice came from his mom.  Smooth tempo alongside awesome production.

I

This song dropped as a single months before the album though.  The song represents the completed development of thee caterpillar.  Now a butterfly, he claims self-love.  Insinuating that all the trials and tribulations made him who he is, and he is very satisfied with his current state of being.  The end part of the song has Kendrick talking to a group of listeners.  He takes the chance to preach unity, pride and self-love.  He enlightens the crowd on the word NEGUS (meaning – Ethiopian royalty.) which we all are.

The version on the album is a welcome alternative to the jingly version that was the single version of this.

Mortal man

this here track is KING!  Here Kendrick tells is that he’s trying to walk Nelson Mandela’s shoes. “The ghost of Mandela, hope my flows they propel it”…  “Want you to love me like Nelson, want you to hug me like Nelson I freed you from being a slave in your mind, you’re very welcome” he’s tryna preach unity and sameness in his songs.  He also makes references to some powerful names the likes of JFK and Malcolm X.   He also questions our commitment to the movement on this song.  He went ahead to blow our minds with this awesome interview with Tupac Shakur and a lovely piece at the very end of this song.

This has Kendrick giving a sort of condensed analysis of the themes touched on during the course of the album so far and he does this over a sample of a Fela song “I no get eye for back” . An oft repeated line in the hook refers to the fact that most heroes have had to deal with their followers/fans abandoning them in their hours of need so tell me “when the sh*t hits the fan, is you still a fan?”

CONCLUSION

THL: “but most of y’all sharing bars like you got the bottom bunk in a two man cell”..   The general idea of the album is the process it takes for a caterpillar to grow into a colourful butterfly.  Yeah, something like that.  So Kendrick uses this to describe his journey to stardom.  You dig?   Awesome concept.

Some keywords were used in the album, including   Uncle Sam the pimp. (U. S. A)  Cocoon (Compton/his climb to stardom) Lucy (Lucifer -I’m guessing cos this person kept on coming with tempting offers and stuff). The album also has this jazz flow to it.

In conclusion, this album isn’t just an album it is rap, poetry and a celebration/reminder of black history all in one.  It is creativity at its finest. The album had the same jazz flow almost throughout the album with good producers like Sounwave and Boi-1da.  The punchlines weren’t so much compared to the vivid imagery painted or awesome stories told. To end with, this album was rich as fxck.

i’ll give this album an A.

Thank you.

Ladi out.

@slklouis:  This album is so unlike anything he has ever released before; yet, this is the Kendrick we all expected to hear based on “i”. This album kicks at the box of hip hop just like Andre 3 stacks,The Roots, De la Soul, ATCQ and Common have done before but this time it is not presented to us in a manner that is at once too preachy/high-minded/condescending (even though there are moments sprinkled throughout the album where one of these occurs in isolation, they never occur together). The emotion her is so real that it goes past been heard and begs to be felt (and unless you are built of rock or have been turned to stone by Medusa, you will feel it.) i would like to note tho that this album should not be pumped up to be more than it is: an adventure or tour that paid off. this album took several listens to stick for me and i wasnt swooning after my first listening unlike most of the people on the internet who were rushing to be the first to say that they understood the concept of the album. in fact, it took this review from Ladi to help me figure out certain aspects of the album which helped me find out even more about the album. This album is a step towards proving that This poet transcends rap. He is a poet, the voice of our generation. He discusses topics no other rapper has the balls to talk about. He condemns the drug and liquor culture where others seek to endorse it (even Swimming Pools is not an ode to the drink but rather a parody of other odes to the bottle). He talks about gang violence in a manner that both rebukes the gang members for indulging in violence against their fellow me and at the same time praises them for finding strength in self to bond with people with whom they share similar ambitions and at the same time calls attention to the strength they have in numbers. He speaks about the gang life as an outsider looking in but seems to be even more of an insider than those who pay to be affiliated. He speaks about Depression, self loathing, personal growth, personal responsibility and acceptance. As much as i have now grown to like this album, i still haven’t gotten fully used to hearing the Thundercat and Flying Lotus sounds here as it takes me out of the moment and leaves me unprepared to hear Kendrick speak but on the plus side, the feel good and dreamy instrumentals cloak the fact that K.Dot is speaking some deep truths on this record. Bearing all these in mind, i’m going to agree with THL and give this an A.

a-400

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