This week has been pretty awesome for two main reasons. One, I got Merilla into Kendrick Lamar. The only problem is, she doesn’t know any of the song titles (ie “Backstreet Free wrap”, “bad city, good kid”) or the lyrics. But I’m willing to overlook this because I have converted her to Team Kendrick. Two, To Pimp a Butterfly came out earlier than expected. This was perfect timing because it happened during Spring Break, so I neglected my family and friends to listen to the album. Multiple times. Then I listened to Kendrick’s older albums again. Multiple times. Needless to say, I’ve lost all friendships, but it doesn’t matter because I gained Kendrick’s new album.
This album is so so important. Even if you don’t listen to rap usually, I highly recommend listening to it. Its messages are not only deep and complex, but extremely relevant to 2015. To be honest, there’s a lot going on in the album and I don’t think I could ever fully understand it. However, I’m gonna try (wish me luck). One theme that Kendrick talks about is the monster of fame and fortune–basically the downward spiral of fame. Another theme is institutionalized racism. These themes converge into one major crisis in Kendrick’s life. Kendrick has multiple responses to his situation, one of them including is self-love and positivity. While every song on the album contributes to the album’s themes, below are my favorites.
1) “Wesley’s Theory”
So the introducing song to any album has a lot of responsibility because it has to set up the tone for the rest of the album. To me, “Wesley’s Theory” goes above and beyond. Not only does it demonstrate musical elements that continue throughout the album (instrumentals, funk elements), but its message sums up a lot of the album’s themes. The song starts off with the successes of fame, but it ends how Uncle Sam set him up for failure.
Ok before I get into the deeper meaning of this song I just want everyone to know that apparently Pharrell sings the hook on this song. That is Pharrell’s voice. Just listen to the hook and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your opinions if that is really Pharrell or not. Because I still don’t believe it. This song has a positive message that with everything wrong going on in the world, “we gonna be alright”.
This song and “The Blacker the Berry” are probably the most raw songs on the album. “u” shows the dark and depressing side of Kendrick. It is a very intense song lyrically and musically.
Fortunately, the answer to the depression of “u” is the self-love of “i”. Kendrick really tries to find positivity in his life and I think that is a great theme for an audience to listen to.
This album is so great, but there should be no expectations about it. It is so different than anything else out there at the moment. One of the reasons why it is so different (and one of my favorite parts of the album) is the album’s use of horns and strings. This album really deserves to be listened to in full and with full attention. Sure, this isn’t as energetic as Good Kid, m.a.a.d. city, but the depth of To Pimp a Butterfly is so intriguing that I can’t recommend it enough.