The Beauty of Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp A Butterfly'

(written in February of 2016)

As the Grammy’s are underway (literally within a couple of hours), I though that I should reflect on the beauty and significance of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Lamar is also the artist with the most nominations at tonight’s Grammy awards. I am actually re-listening to this iconic album as I am writing this post.

When I first heard the release date for TPAB, I did not know what to expect. I mean, I knew that it was going to be great, but I did not know that Kendrick Lamar was going to release this masterpiece. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon on the “Tonight Show”, Lamar mentioned that he was going to release TPAB as his debut album instead of good kid, m.A.A.d city, but he did not want to start off so strong with his latest album. Well, TPAB is the best album that I have heard in my life. Lamar did not explicitly captivate my attention until this album because of its political consciousness.

As if the album cover is not controversial yet powerful on its own, the lyrics that are displayed throughout the songs solidifies Kendrick Lamar’s significance within the hip-hop community. In fact, this is the album that I have been waiting to hear from modern hip-hop because the prevalence of trap music that has captured the ears of my generation has unfortunately decimated the essence of hip-hop. The message of today’s hip-hop has been suppressed to sex, money, and blatant materialism. That is why I am so thankful for Lamar revivingthe essence of hip-hop. TPAB features songs having subliminal messages that are made completely conscious and relevant to listeners.

The album is about a caterpillar (which is the black man) and the butterfly (which represents the unlimited potential and success that is within the black man and is heavily praised). However, the caterpillar is trapped inside of this cocoon (which represents society) that limits and metaphorically suffocates the caterpillar to the point that the caterpillar unfortunately believes that the butterfly is unattainable. So, the caterpillar has to find a way to pimp the butterfly. By discussing the difficulty of avoiding the temptations of the devil that is metaphorically characterized by using Lucy in the song “God is a Gangsta” to highlighting the issue of colorism in “Complexion (A Zulu Love)”, Lamar creates a story that is relevant within the African-American community.

It is not just the powerful messages that makes this album so unique; it is also the sound that completes this masterpiece. There is a funk sound that it prevalent throughout the entire album thanks to the help of Parliament (the funk group) leader George Clinton. His funk sound is greatly revealed in “Wesley’s Theory”. Additionally, the order of the tracks on the album and the producing is superb. It’s an artistic masterpiece. Kendrick Lamar reveals his old-soul personality by having snippets of Lalah Hathaway’s voice on “Momma”.

Nominated for eleven Grammy’s, this is a huge night for Kendrick Lamar. This probably the best year for Lamar, who has recently visited President Obama, who says Lamar is his favorite rapper, at the White House. On being nominated, Lamar says, “I want to win them all. It’s bigger than me. When we think about the Grammy’s, only Lauryn Hill and Outkast have won Album of the Year. This would be big for hip-hop culture at large.”