Some quick thoughts over lunch…
I’ve had the opportunity to listen to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly a couple of times over the past two days. And as much as I want to fully embrace it like good kid, m.A.A.d city (for the record, one of my top 3 albums released this decade so far), something tells me to hold off on my acclaims.
I believe that Kendrick Lamar is one of the top MCs in the game today and I also feel that he himself knows this as fact. His output suggests though that his motive is no longer to be one of the best rappers in the industry today, but instead, be regarded as one of the best of all time (See Exhibit A: Control). As such, in this album, he tries to explore another side of his creativity.
Granted, he could have gone and went ballistic with his rhymes like usual, something that his previous body of work has embodied not only with his own tracks, but even those where he is merely a featured artist (Schoolboy Q’s Collared Greens, A$AP Rocky’s Fuckin’ Problems, etc.). But he chose to deviate from what is expected of him and delivered funk, soul and jazz melodies layered over his lyrics. Think Andre 3000’s with Stankonia progressing into The Love Below.
While not the first Kendrick Lamar track(s) to deliver this style (last year’s Never Catch Me collaboration with Flying Lotus comes to mind), this definitely came as a surprise to me in that he delivered a full album as stylistically different as his two preceeding records. And while I have not been able to fully grasp and appreciate this album as I hope I would, I admire and respect what Kendrick Lamar is out to do here. And that is to make his mark on rap history.
Now on the question of whether I’ll eventually grow to love this record, that remains to be seen. However, when good kid, m.A.A.d city was released, it took me a few weeks to fully appreciate its genius. So if I’m to base this question on history, then appreciating To Pimp a Butterfly seems to be very possible.