March 16, 2015 is going to be a date in hip-hop not soon forgotten. Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, aka Kendrick Lamar, released his newest album “To Pimp a Butterfly,” a spin off the famous Harper Lee novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The album title is by far the least stunning part of the album.
This whole album, 16 songs featuring artists including Snoop Dogg, Bilal and Anna Wise, is a charged album to say the least.
Lamar doesn’t just lay down lyrics that are racially and spiritually charged in light of the killings of black youth that have occurred over the past year; he also mixes his West Coast lyrical style with the aggression seen on the East Coast scenes of New York.
You can really feel his roots here, portraying the late Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. Simply put, this album sits high above his previous work in meaning and in reach.
Lamar raps about racial struggle in every form.
He seems incapable of holding his thoughts and feelings back, which is everything you want from an artist like Lamar.
It is a real voice, a voice that critically analyzes the different social problems of this nation and generation. It is informed and poetic, angry and insightful.
It is a kaleidoscope into the mind of Kendrick Lamar and the minds of many black artists and kids who find themselves growing up in today’s America.
But Lamar doesn’t stop there. He delivers more than just his lyrics.
He collaborates with producers and artists to create beats that fuse jazz, 1970s funk, Miles Davis and Parliament into one cohesive masterpiece, a foundation to build not just a house, but rather a musical mansion.
Something surprising about this album is the lack of headlining artists featured on it.
While the artists he does feature are definitely worth their weight in salt, Lamar doesn’t have the usual big names such as Drake, Dr. Dre or Jay Rock on the album.
Lamar is quoted saying, “It was almost selfish of me.”
But when it comes down to it, what I really love about this album is Kendrick’s voice and style, which might have been lost or washed out with the addition of other big names.
To say the least, I was more than pleased to see “To Pimp a Butterfly” drop a week early. My respect and love for Kendrick Lamar has only been solidified with this release.
West Coast is merged with East Coast style, themes of politics and race are empowering without being overbearing or overstated, and in every way, shape and form, this album is something to be talked about for decades to come.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see this album as a cultural landmark, in a time where music like this is more than wanted, it is needed.
“To Pimp a Butterfly” is available on iTunes for $14.99 and is streaming on Spotify for free.
It is offered in both explicit and edited versions.