The highly anticipated album from rapper Kendrick Lamar was released March 16 and quickly became one of the most successful digital releases in history. “To Pimp a Butterfly” is Lamar’s triumphant third studio album and has been met with rave reviews for its piercingly honest and Afrocentric subject matter.
With musical and lyrical cameos from George Clinton, Snoop Dogg, Ronald Isely and Bilal and public endorsements of praise from seasoned hip-hop artists such as Talib Kweli, Flying Lotus and Kanye West, “To Pimp a Butterfly’ received record-breaking numbers on the digital music streaming program Spotify, racking up a staggering 9.6 million plays on the first day of the album’s release.
This album holds nothing back. With singles like “I” and “The Blacker the Berry,” Lamar opens up about his perspective and experiences as a Black man in America, his experimentation with psychedelic drugs and the evolution of his relationship with himself. “To Pimp a Butterfly” is a bold, expressive piece of music, and the media and music industry have not offered a negative peep about the album, despite its raw, fearless exploration of American race relations.
Elements of Afro-futurism, jazz and psychedelic music are all mixed in with the album’s powerful beats. Lamar often delivers soliloquies of spoken word, storytelling and personal commentary throughout the album, giving the album variation and depth. The record was clearly thought out and crafted with very close attention to detail, making its artistic elements still seem effortless.
“To Pimp a Butterfly” could very well be considered one of the most important hip-hop albums to date. Lamar comes off as a visionary and sets the bar at a level that is not too high to reach but creates a new realm of art-nouveau hip-hop that will keep new generations of rappers looking deeply into themselves to achieve.
Lamar ends his album by seamlessly pasting together an interview-like conversation with the rapper Tupac Shakur in the song “Mortal Man.” The album ends with humility as the young rapper asks Tupac about his perspective, as if he is hoping for advice on how to survive on his own as a natural leader and excellent lyricist.