I Can't Call It: To Pimp A Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar

Posted On Monday, April 6, 2015

I think I was one of the few hip hop heads who wasn't looking forward to Kendrick's "To Pimp A Butterfly." It's not like I didn't dig "God Kid, Maad City" (cause I did) but one of the reason I loved "Good Kid..." so much was because it was a concept album. And what if Kendrick didn't come with another concept album this go round...would I still dig it? I couldn't call that one. Plus, the first 2 singles I heard from this album "I" and "Blacker The Berry" were both just blah to me. Now what did have me open for this album was that song he did on the Colbert Report cause that was BANANAS but again, with me not feeling the other 2 songs, I figured for the most part that this new jawn wouldn't live up to "Good Kid..." so I still wasn't checking for it. Then a week out before "To Pimp..." was supposed to drop, I saw a tweet saying the album was out there and before you know it, an album I wasn't checking for, is now all of a sudden the very thing that has me up on Sunday night with open ears, when I was just about to call it a night. But screw it, I'll just be dead tired tomorrow at work dealing with my crazy hood teens but let's hope that "To Pimp A Butterfly" is worth it.

Well, after listening to the album the first go 'round, it was just aiight. There were a couple of songs I liked, a couple I didn't...it was real heavy on the  jazz tip but the biggest slap in the face to me was where the hell is that song from the Colbert Report?!?!? Now the first listen didn't matter cause I knew from the door that I owed this album a couple of listens. Namely because I listened to it while I was tired as hell at 1m in the morning and also because it took me a sec to warm up to "Good Kid..." so I already knew for me Kendrick isn't the first listen type of MC. And even after the first couple of listens I was still confused as hell about what this album was about. I mean, who was Lucy? Was it drugs? Was it "the man?" Why is Kendrick talking down to this bum and calling himself Go at the end? What the hell is "U" about? And why are there mexican maids at the door. I basically felt like I needed a "Kendrick Lamar for Dummies" book to understand this album. But after a couple of google searches and dedicating 100% of my attention to this album (nowadays with a million things going on around me, I damn near never give anything 100% of my attention...music, sports, etc) I finally got it. And now that I got it, this album is far from my first impression of just being "aiight" cause this album is flat out incredible...f-ck what you heard or how you feel about it.

The album sets off with the G funk inspired "Wesley's Theme" which on the first verse has Kendrick breaking down everything he's gonna do when he gets his deal, "when I get signed homie I'mma act a fool, hit the dance floor strobe lights in the room/snatch your little secretary bitch for the homies, blue eyed devil with a fat ass monkey/I'mmma buy a brand new caddy on fours, trunk the hood up, two times deuce four/platinum on everything, platinum on wedding ring, married to the game, made a bad b-tch yours/when I get signed homie I'mma buy a strap, straight from the CIA set it on my lap/take a few M-16's to the hood, pass 'em all out on the block what's good?" While the 2nd verse comes from the perspective of good ole Uncle Sam, "what you want you, a house or a car, forty acres and a mule a piano a guitar/anything see my name is Uncle Sam on your dollar, motherfucker you can love at the mall/I know your kind, that's why I'm kind, don't have receipts, oh man that's fine/pay me later wear those gators, cliche and say fuck your haters/I can see the borrow in you, I can see the dollar in you/and everything you buy taxes will deny, I'll Wesley Snipe your ass before thirty five." "For Free" is a straight jazz ensemble with Kendrick doing his best Def Poetry Jam flow breaking down how "this d-ck ain't free" going back & forth with Uncle Sam portrayed by your everyday gold diggin' hood chick and "King Kunta" is probably the most west coast song Kendrick has ever made and will probably be the soundtrack this summer in Compton from the swap meets to the backyard BBQ's and has Kendrick telling his fellow MC's in the game "I don't want you money mouth motherf-ckers sittin' in my throne again" and letting ya'll know how he feels about ghostwriters in the game, "I can dig rapping but a rapper with a ghost writer, what the f-ck happened/I swore I wouldn't tell, but most of you share bars like you got the bottom bunk in a two man cell" while the best way to explain "Institutionalized" featuring Snoop Dogg is to call it a cosmic funk slop masterpiece. "These Walls" deals with the relationship of a man and woman but from the aspect of a woman's vagina being the walls Kendrick is talking about, "if these walls could talk they'd tell me to go deep, yelling at me continuously I can see/your defense mechanism is my decision, knock these walls down that's my religion/walls feeling like they ready to close in, I suffocate then catch my 2nd wind/I resonate in these walls, I don't know how long I can wait for these walls, I've been on these streets too long looking at you from the outside in, they sing the same old song about how they walls are always the cleanest/I beg to differ I mist've missed them, I'm not involved I'd rather dis them/I'd rather call all you put your walls up, cause when I come around demolition goes crush."

"U" is the direct opposite of the album's 1st single "I." So while on "I" Kendrick is rapping about loving yourself "U" is the ying to that yang so you've got Kendrick talking about hating himself and how loving himself is complicated. "I place blame on you still, place shame on you still/feel like you ain't shit, feel like you don't feel/confidence in yourself breakin on marble floors, watching anonymous strangers tellin me that I'm yours, but you ain't shit I'm convinced your talent's nuthin special/what can I blame him for, nigga I can name several." And for the 2nd part of "U" you'v got Kendrick dealing with his inner demons and fighting off depression, "I know your secrets nigga, mood swings is frequent nigga/I know depression is restin' on your heart for two reasons nigga, I know you and a couple of block boys ain't been speakin' nigga/ya'll damn near beefin' I seen it and you're the reason nigga/and if this bottle could talk, I'd cry myself to sleep, b-tch everything is your fault." And to say "U" is an incredible song would be doing it a major disservice cause I have literally listened to the first 2 minutes of this song on repeat for over a hour. All I can say is that the music alone could make these 2 minutes heaven on earth but Kendrick's verse is just the icing on the cake. I've told cats before that Kendrick is like the black preacher from back in the 70's holding service right on the street corner and the Pharrell produced "Alright" just helps to prove my point. To be honest I don't know if there's a better way to look at the struggles of so many middle class folk but still hold onto their faith in God then with Kendrick's line of "I'm fucked up homie you're fucked up but if God got us then we're gonna be alright." "Alright" also gives us the first Lucy aka Lucifer sighting who rears his ugly head again in "For Sale."My name is Lucy Kendrick, you introduced me Kendrick/usually I don't do this but I see you and me Kendrick/Lucy give you no worries, Lucy got million stories, about these rappers I came after when they was boring/Lucy gone fill your pockets, Lucy gone move your mama out of Compton/inside the gigantic mansion like I promised, Lucy just want your trust and loyalty, avoiding me, it's not so easy I'm at these functions accordingly/Kendrick, Lucy don't slack a minute, Lucy work harder, Lucy gone call you even when Lucy know you love your Father/I'm Lucy I loosely heard prayers on your first album truly, Lucy don't mind cause at the end of the day you'll pursue me/Lucy go get it, Lucy not timid, Lucy up front, Lucy got paper work on top of paper work/I want you to know that Lucy got you, all your life I watched you and now you all grown up then sign this contract if that's possible."

"Momma" is another sloppy cosmic funk banger that has Kendrick breaking down how the evils of Lucy were all around him so he went running for answers that brought him back home. "Hood Politics" goes hard and gives you some behind the scene footage on just how close Kendrick's "Control" verse had us on the cusp of another East Coat/West Coast war, "less you askin' me about power, yeah, I got a lot of it, I'm the only nigga next to Snoop that can push the button/had the Coast on standby like K. Dot, what up? I heard they opened up Pandora's box, I box 'em all in, by a landslide/nah homie we too sensitive, it spill out to the streets, I make the call and get the coast involved then history repeats/but I resolved inside that private hall while sitting down with Jay, he said it's funny how one verse could f-ck up the game." The beat for "How Much A Dollar Cost" is flat out sick and gives Kendrick the perfect backdrop for him to drop some science about a conversation between him and God and lets us all know just how much that dollar REALLY costs. "Complexion" featuring Rhapsody breaks down the problems that black folk still battle with to this day over the how dark & how light we are but through the eyes of a slave, "dark as the midnight hour or bright as the mornin' sun, give a fuck about your complexion, I know what the Germans done/sneak me through the back window, I'm a good field nigga, I made a flower for you outta cotton just to chill with you/you know I'd go the distance, you know I'm ten toes down, even if master listenin', cover your ears, he 'bout to mention." Remember how I wasn't feeling "Blacker the Berry" and "I?" Welp, now I rock with them both cause they fit into the mold of this album perfectly. The last line of  "The Blacker the Berry" basically sums up why Kendrick is the biggest hypocrite in 2015, "so why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street, when gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker then me?"

"You Ain't Gotta Lie" is dope, while "I" all of sudden makes perfect sense and fits the whole concept of the album perfectly and if you know me, I'm always big on how an album ends and with "Mortal Man" "To Pimp..." ends perfectly. "Do you believe in me, are you deceiving me, could I let you down easily is your heart where it need to be/is your smile permanent, is your vow on lifetime, would you know where the sermon if if I died in this next line/if I'm tried in court of law if the industry cut me off, if the government want me dead plant cocaine in my car/would you judge me a drug kid or see me as K. Lamar/or question my character and degrade me on every blog, 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/you tell me my song is more than a song it's surely a blessing but a prophet ain't a prophet til they ask you this question/when sh-t hi the fan, is you still a fan?" A minute ago I read an interview with RZA and he was saying how it's hard to call Raekwon's "Only Built For Cuban Linx" a Rae solo album cause him, Ghost and Capadonna played a HUGE roll in the making of that album and that's one of the things I love about "To Pimp..." because there are so many key players that make this album into what it is. We call start off with Philly's native son Bilal who shines on damn near half of the album. I don't know if songs like "Institunalize", "These Walls", "Momma" and have that same umph without dude. And when's the last time you heard the same R&B dude featured on more then one song on the same hip hop album and sounds dope on everyone of 'em? Yeah, I'll wait. Not to mention the jazz quintet of Robert Glasper, Terrance Martin, Battlecat, Ambrose Akinmusire and Kamasi Washington that help create the bulk of the beautiful music that flows from this album. It's to the point that I feel like if you don't like "To Pimp..." then you don't like jazz cause there's absolutely no way you can like jazz but not dig this album...it's literally impossible.

To me, "To Pimp A Butterfly" is like a good steak. You wouldn't take a bite of a steak and instantly say "damn, this is the best steak I ever had." Now, you might say "this steak is REALLY good" but the best ever? Nah, the "best steak I ever had" statement has to be reserved for that time after you've eaten the whole steak, gave it a minute to digest and then and only then would you use "that was the best steak ever" card. And that's how "TPAB" is. You can't listen to this album once and bill it as a classic or a brick, you've gotta give it a minute to sink in and I feel like cats nowadays don't wanna do that. It's just easier to jump on the social media bandwagon of claiming something is a classic 8 minutes after it dropped then to really let something marinate with you. Cause if you really do live with it for a minute, that means the other 100 other albums and mixtapes that drop while something is marinating gets put on hold. And if something is put on hold then you can tweet or chop it up about it so not too many folk are gonna put the world on hold to hold tight with just one album. Nah, that's way TOO much work. But I'll tell ya'll this and I've said it before, if cats don't start putting the world on hold and really building with albums like we used to then cats are REALLY gonna miss out on a lot of dope music cause we're on our skimming jawn. What do I mean by that? We're basically just skimming across a song here and there and never giving anything a sec to sink in cause it's automatically on to the next one. And there's absolutely no way you can skim with "To Pimp A Butterfly" cause if you do, you'll never get the message and if you don't get the message, what was the point of listening in the first place?

5 outta 5 mics

1 comment

  1. albumf of the year guys!so good that my brain is having an orgasm!just like https://kovla.com/blog/who-s-your-daddy-a-talk-with-a-pimp/ after reading this article about a real pimp!


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