Music Review – Kendrick Lamar, “To Pimp a Butterfly”

I listen to all sorts of music, but it seems that I have yet to express that on this blog (according to one disgruntled blogger).  And so, since I recently watched Straight Outta Compton, I thought I’d do something on rap music.  It just so happens that I recently finished listening to Kendrick Lamar’s new album “To Pimp a Butterfly”, so here’s my review of it.

Lamar tends to have 2 types of songs and it really just depends on whether he’s rapping on his own track or someone else’s.  For example, in songs like “F**ing Problem” or “Classic Man (Remix)”, Kendrick’s lyrics tend to be very… typical.  Which isn’t a problem for some people.  To be honest, I don’t listen to lyrics half the time, simply because I’m a rhythm person.  If I like the sound, lyrics can take a back seat.  That’s why I can “enjoy” to some extent most of the tracks he “bites” on.

However, I’d like to think that he does these “feat.” gigs to fund his solo career, because that is something completely different.  Even before “To Pimp a Butterfly”, he’s had a very different type of sound, both in rhythm and lyrics.  He has a much more experimental sound compared the current wave of rappers.

Let’s take a look.  Here’s track #7, “Alright”.

It sure doesn’t seem like the rap I grew up listening to.  I’m pretty young though, so I missed a whole lot.  Either way, it sure isn’t 1-D.  All of Kendrick’s songs seem to begin with a feeling instead of lyrics.  Those feelings feed the lyrics and the sound.  In “Alright”, a bleak and brooding atmosphere gives way to a track, and then all of a sudden it changes to another track which becomes the rest of the song.  A feeling of fear and fragmentation, of a desire to succeed and the willingness to change oneself to do so permeates through to the lyrics, which are full of a spiritual denial of one’s betrayal of self.  It’s a dark comedy played out in rap form.

However, Lamar has tracks that pay homage to the music of his home, Compton.  Here’s track #3, “King Kunta”.

It has the sensibilities of the rap music of the modern era, in terms of musicality.  However, it has the cool and early synth sound of an older time.  The content of the lyrics belie a desire that most rappers have, which is to be the best despite their humble beginnings.

Lastly, there is track #15, “i”.

Kendrick’s music teaches you one thing: never judge a track by the first few bars or measures, because music, like humanity, can change at a moments notice.  He starts one way, then changes, then makes the tune beefier as he starts spitting.  It sounds like a summer song, but it pushes at the boundaries and tests the limits of that particular sub-genre.  He makes the music work for him, rather than just taking a beat as gospel and holding to it.  It’s a liberty given to people who are good on both sides of the recording booth.

Overall, a pretty good album if I do say so myself (and I’m pretty sure I don’t).

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

2 thoughts on “Music Review – Kendrick Lamar, “To Pimp a Butterfly”

  1. YES! In all honesty this is probably the last album i’d thought you’d review, glad you took the time to listen. This album is certainly one of those in which require a few listens. looking forward to more.

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