Album Review: To Pimp A ButterflyWonkeyDude98 Mini-Description: In my second album review, I unpunctually and reluctantly dive in to
Kendrick's widely acclaimed 2015 release -- and possibly the best rap album of the decade.
Best Songs: "u", "Mortal Man" ft. Tupac, "The Blacker The Berry" ft. Assassin, "How Much A Dollar Cost" ft. James Fauntleroy and Ronald Isley, "King Kunta", "i", "Alright" ft. Pharrell, "For Sale?", "For Free?", "Institutionalized" ft. Bilal, Anna Wise, and Snoop Dogg, "These Walls" ft. Bilal, Anna Wise, and Thundercat, "Complexion" ft. Rapsody
Worst Songs: "Hood Politics", "Wesley's Theory" ft. George Clinton and Thundercat
I did not want to review this this early. This doesn't deserve it. But it has to be gotten out to everyone how great this album is. So without further ado, hello everyone, and today I'm going to review the third studio album from Kendrick Lamar titled To Pimp A Butterfly. Does this NEED an introduction? This is one of the most acclaimed (if not the most acclaimed) albums of the entire year. Just to make a quick joke, after hearing about untitled unmastered, I was thinking, "Kendrick be like, 'my scraps are better than your main courses'".
So...where to begin?
I want to start small, so let's talk about the performance. Kendrick has so much personality it's hard to ignore. It's easy to buy into his self-loathing and guilt throughout the album. His flow is unlike any other rapper I've....probably ever heard. Sure his rhymes could be better, but given the lyrical content (we'll get to that), I can honestly let it slide. His guest stars are drastically different from good kid, m.A.A.d. city, and fewer in general. Assassin brings real fire on The Blacker The Berry (despite me honestly not enjoying his accent), Snoop Dogg (the only actual rapper here) tries for the first time in years on Institutionalized, Pharrell brings his distinctive personality and production on Alright, Thundercat's distinctive bass work shines on These Walls, and Rapsody drops a verse on Complexion that gives Kendrick a run for his money, and her verse probably the best on the album from a different artist. This is comparatively more remote than in GKMC, and it benefits the album, giving it a much more personal feel.
The lyrical content is absolutely phenomenal. I don't know where to start. To start small, Kendrick goes as far as referencing MICHAEL JACKSON on King Kunta, on top of all the other sick references, AND THAT'S THE WORST LYRICALLY ON THE ALBUM (in a technical sense). You have the uplifting isolation of i, the symbol "Lucy" (Lucifer) on For Sale, Momma, Complexion, and Mortal Man, the shaky confidence of Alright, and the feeling of separation on These Walls. And THAT'S just scratching the surface.
If you want to go even further, you can look at songs like the crushingly and brutally honest The Blacker The Berry, which delves into how Kendrick considers himself "the biggest hypocrite of 2015" considering race crimes and discrimination. Or How Much A Dollar Cost in which Kendrick refuses to give money to a homeless person, and that person ends up being GOD HIMSELF. Or the aforementioned For Sale, in which he tries to break free of the influence of Lucy. Or u, which is probably the best song on the album, where Kendrick's different personalities clash with each other into a rough, depressing breakdown. And most substantially, the final twelve minute song Mortal Man, where Kendrick reveals that there have been different views in the story: the caterpillar, who tries to snuff out the butterfly, the butterfly, the inspiration, and the cocoon, which captivates the butterfly's true passion. The caterpillar uses the cocoon to pimp the butterfly, and the butterfly will break free of the cocoon.
The biggest piece of lyrical genius on the album is also on Mortal Man, in which Kendrick reveals what the little progressive skits in King Kunta, Alright, These Walls, Hood Politics, For Sale, Complexion were. They were something that no other rapper would even DARE to try: this album was a letter to the late TuPac Shakur. The song is twelve minutes because the last six minutes are a conversation between him and TuPac. It's a moment of clarity on the album.
Even with these performances and the content, the place where Kendrick finds his cultural roots would be the production. He takes elements from soul, blues, hip-hop, and even jazz. And it's extremely well balanced, from the cluttered percussion and sax on For Free (that song is hilarious I'm telling you), to the eerie synths on The Blacker The Berry put up against a haunting drum, to the creepy sax riff and piano on u, which adds on to the drunken crying and self-hating lyrics, to the wispy piano and whirring synths on These Walls. Plus, the production on King Kunta is literally perfect.
To be completely honest, there were some parts on the album that I didn't really like that much. An example is Wesley's Theory, which is actually really great, but I didn't like the boingy/ear-piercing synth lines, nor did I like the whiny vocal sample three minutes in. Despite me liking the beat to Alright, the vocal sample layered across the entire track, while being one of the few on the album that isn't actively grating, is weirdly out of place and cuts out at some awkward times. And honestly, Hood Politics is my least favorite song on the album, mainly for being hard to listen to after the first 30 seconds. It was pretty underwritten and it's not a track I like to go back to, despite the lyrical content.
Even then, those are pretty minor (if you can get past the fact that I wrote a whole paragraph about them) compared to how awesome this entire album is. Just about everything about it is perfect, and the stories it tells are magnificent. This may not be Kendrick's most balanced work, but it's definitely his most personal. I'm not one to call an album a classic a year after it releases, but this stands the test of time. I give this album a 10/10 on both scales, and my absolute highest recommendation. If you haven't listened to it, I need to call rescue services to get you out from under that rock. Now, let's let this butterfly spread its wings. This is WonkeyDude98, signing out, 'cause we gon' be alright!
I rarely listen to rap. But. This is a phenomenal album. - PetSounds
That's how amazing this album is. It's barely even a rap album, it's black culture in general. - WonkeyDude98
Not really a rap fan but it's better than a lot of music nowadays - bobbythebrony
Mortal Man is the only song I loved on the record, but "Hood Politics," "Wesley's Theory," and "The Blacker the Berry" are also pretty great. - Alpha101
Really? Two of those are songs I didn't really enjoy. What was wrong with u, i, Alright, and King Kunta. - WonkeyDude98
While I primarily listen to Metal and Rock, I am also open-minded when comes to music.
Kendrick Lamar is the greatest rap artist to debut in this decade. His songs have meaning and he has tremendous talent. He kinda reminds me of Eazy E. - MrQuaz680
I don't think anyone can argue with that. And don't be so nice to Eazy. - WonkeyDude98
Listen to In Colour by Jamie XX. - djpenquin999
Huh. I'll check it out and tell you what I think. - WonkeyDude98
If you watched Todd's Best Songs of 2012 video, you should know that Drake sampled a song from him for Take Care. - djpenquin999
The sample was the worst part of the song though. Still, I actually agree with Todd fully on it being #1. - WonkeyDude98
I thought it was the best but opinions are opinions. - djpenquin999
Well, I'm glad you like the album, considering that it's on your best albums of 2015 list. - djpenquin999
Like I've said: except for maybe The Marshall Mathers LP 2, the best album of the entire decade.
It's still the best album of 2015, and it rightfully deserves it. - SwagFlicks
It really does. - WonkeyDude98
Lol this is cringe - SwagFlicks
Like this entire godawful post. Need to rewrite this. - WonkeyDude98
I feel like I'm the only one who really likes Wesley's Theory. It's probably my favorite after King Kunta. - ryansliao