Over the past four years and two studio albums, Kendrick Lamar has proven to the world that his artistic capability is a force to be reckoned with. His last release good kid, m.A.A.d city, perfectly encapsulated the fusion of both accessible and thought-provoking lyrics, with beautifully executed jazz-infused production. His third studio album To Pimp a Butterfly continues to push the boundaries with which Hip-Hop has been defined whilst staying true to the legacy the genre has created for itself, and appropriately sits at No. 2 on The Edge’s Top 10 Albums of the Year.
What is particularly impressive about this album is Kendrick’s ability to create a profound storyline that effortlessly flows from the first track to the last. The common tale of an emerging rapper’s struggle and mental conflict between his/her desires and the music industry’s temptations, is expertly interwoven song after song – adding more depth to the story as the album progresses. The most poignant element has to be the poem on the album’s final track ‘Mortal Man’. This beautifully sincere poem is dedicated to the late rapper Tupac Shakur (2Pac), with whom Kendrick goes on to have an eerily surreal conversation, touching on topics close to rapper’s heart and providing us with a very emotional closing to the album.
This record stands alone as a body of work, intricately detailed with songs both individually strong yet co-dependent on each other – and therefore choosing a stand out track in this sense could be classed as equal to a parent choosing a favourite child. The ego-boosted ‘King Kunta’ and the feel good ‘i’ are funk-driven hits, both of which have been well received commercially; whilst ‘Institutionalized’ and ‘How Much a Dollar Cost?’ both create reflective ambience, with the latter serving as one of Kendrick’s epiphany moments in the album. However what these tracks show is the varied and complex nature of the album, highlighting Kendrick’s admirable creative process.
To Pimp a Butterfly is deserving of the title “masterpiece” and as time progresses it will rightfully earn the title “iconic”, being relevant in a time frame beyond the one of its creation. The 11 Grammy nominations Kendrick has received earlier this month for the album further proves its quality, and rightfully fortifies Kendrick as a fantastic artist whose career still has more to offer.
To Pimp a Butterfly was released on 15th March via Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records.