In 1974, Francis Ford Coppola released the sequel to his classic film The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, a movie that critics have said is better than the original classic. If west coast MC Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city is his Godfather, then his new album To Pimp A Butterfly is surely his Godfather Part II.
Listeners were graced with this album a week early and when I woke up last Monday morning and saw Twitter aflame with the news, I immediately downloaded the album. I loved good kid, m.A.A.d city, and I listen to it often, and already I know Lamar’s second album is just as unreal.
The album starts off with the funk infused Wesley’s Theory. The song includes musings on Kendrick’s new-found fame and success, and the fear that it may be taken away. In the voice of the American government, Kendrick raps, “And everything you buy, taxes will deny. I’ll Wesley Snipe your ass before thirty-five.”
The interlude, For Free? features a free jazz-like instrumental, with a vocal performance from Kendrick that is more akin to spoken word than hip-hop. Kendrick continues his critique of America on this track too, “Oh America, you bad bitch; I picked cotton that made you rich.”
Kendrick is also more introspective on this album, with the track, u, we find Kendrick alone in a hotel room screaming. The track ends with Kendrick’s psyche commenting, “And if I told your secrets, the world will know money can’t stop a suicidal weakness.”
The song i, which won Kendrick a Grammy, ends with a freestyle about the nature of the “N-Word” which sees Kendrick illustrating the word as a point of pride.
The closing track Mortal Man is positively surreal towards the end. Kendrick recites a poem that he has been teasing throughout the entire album from Tupac Shakur. Hearing Tupac’s voice, especially when it’s not expected, is chilling to say the least.
To Pimp A Butterfly is one of those albums that come along only so often in music. The album pays homage to traditions passed, while turning the world upside down. An album that is both a condemnation of racism in America, and a deeply personal album about the trappings of fame- if anyone had doubted the genius of King Kendrick, they can’t anymore.
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