ALBUM REVIEW: ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ by Kendrick Lamar Lives Up to Hype

Give the Flak’s Rating: Rave, 9.8/10

First things first. I’m not a hip-hop fanatic, and I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to listen to hip-hop songs or albums. I think that my… well, distaste for hip-hop came from my friends, because they always play the worst of the worst of the genre. So, when I took a look at Metacritic, one day, and its list of the best albums of 2015 so far, “To Pimp a Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar was top on the list.

I remembered that, upon its release, the album had gotten unanimous praise from all music critics, so it wasn’t all that shocking that “To Pimp a Butterfly” was top of the list. But it did make me kind of surprised that nothing had topped the album this year yet. And so, I decided to listen to the album the critics were hailing, to see what all the hype was about.

Now, I understand.

The album, “To Pimp a Butterfly” is one of the most creative and thought-provoking albums I have ever listened to. It has meticulously-crafted lyrics, which serve as political commentary through metaphors and unique analogies, music which explores through many genres and beats, and rapping which captures and transports the listener.

Kendrick Lamar is an African-American, Compton-based rapper, and his previous concept album “good kid, M.A.A.D City” was met with critical acclaim, resulting in “To Pimp a Butterfly” to be one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year. Album, “good kid” was leaked a bit before the release date, and a similar issue played out with Butterfly, when the clean version of the album dropped before the “Real” version on ITunes. Originally, Butterfly was to be called “To Pimp a Caterpillar,” which is irrelevant to this review, but it’s a fun fact.

Anyways, I couldn’t believe that… well, I’ve never heard of Kendrick Lamar (I know, I know) prior to listening to this album. But, with songs about imagining if walls could talk, to Lamar interviewing 2-Pac in one of his songs, I regret that.

So, I guess I must make an apology to the hip-hop genre now:

I’m sorry that I thought you were just a genre with random people talking about the hood, and swearing on top of a beat. Now I know much more, I think. 

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So, anyways, this album kind of actually got me into the genre a bit. Not completely, but to the point where I can actually appreciate hip-hop. I guess I must thank Lamar for that.

Butterfly is filled with social commentary and critiques of the American government. Lamar raises his voice against the racism by the U.S. Police, and idolizes great men such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther Kind Jr, and Malcom X.

And yes, like many rappers, he does rap about sex once and a while, but he does it in a implicit way, so that it’s difficult to understand that he’s actually talking about it. Using metaphors and similes, I think that Lamar is a pretty brilliant writer, all around.

The album has the words, “I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence” in almost every song, with more words added onto the “poem” as the album progresses. Not to mention, some songs share a same verse, making it seem like, THIS IS AN ALBUM.

If you’re going to listen to this album, brace yourself for intense listening. It’s really not an easy listen. You have to listen to every word, and not doze off halfway in. (That actually maybe hard to do. But, I mean, don’t stop listening to it.)

Kendrick Lamar is an extremely important rapper of our times. His wording is articulate (Even though a lot is dirty), his critiques are thought-provoking, and his music is excellent. I especially appreciate the way Lamar utilizes Hip-Hop as a way to speak for the black/African-American community.

Just listen to it. You might hate it, you might love it; I don’t know. But either way, it will either open your eyes, or make you think about the faults in our society.

Oh, and here’s to predicting that Butterfly will get at least nominated for “Album of the Year” for the Grammy Awards. But, then again, the Grammy system is really messed up. They’ll probably give the award to Kidz Bop 29, instead.

-TJ

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