Review Summary: Kendrick's done it again, setting off the huge debate - "good kid, m.A.A.d city" or this masterpiece?
Good Kid, m.A.A.d city was one hell of a rap album, a definite classic in the list of rap albums that have done true diligence to the always-criticized and always-controversial genre. If you don't think otherwise, you must be on something. Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar, who really was unknown to the music world unless you really paid attention to hip-hop and not the radio material, all of a sudden went from a nobody to one of the role models of the industry - an idol in which aspiring rappers look up to for inspiration. Ever since his 2012 release, the hype has been building up for the follow-up to that classic - and now to the roaring approval and excitement of rap fans everywhere, the day has finally arrived.
What you get in Kendrick Lamar's latest release, the much hyped "To Pimp A Butterfly", is different from the stories that he told in "good kid, m.A.A.d city". One that touches on the issues of which America currently is facing and enduring, the sheer truth that it is still living in 'black and white' rather than breaking out in color. This isn't a retelling of the interesting upbringing of Lamar, nor is it really a continuation of his desire to avoid being like the many in his hometown of Compton and of what is wrong with it. He instead focuses on the injustice in which African Americans have been forced to face as of recent, as having been the case with figures like Trayvon Martin - a controversial subject in which has been touched on by guys like Common. He also focuses on economical strife and politics, the numerous themes here is boundless. Lamar even pokes fun at Obama's plan with Cuba, it is absolutely mind-blowing what you're getting here.
Kendrick actually touches on this in "The Blacker The Berry", which has to be one of the deepest and most creative raps Lamar has conceived. It is a lyrical masterpiece in its own right, contending with Lupe Fiasco's "Mural" as the most creative rap of the year. If you thought he blossomed lyrically in "good kid, m.A.A.d city", think again - he opened up his wings and took flight in this record. What he does in "The Blacker The Berry" lyrically is something to behold, as he launches a full-throttle assault on those who criticize African-Americans and their culture. Lines like "your plan is to terminate my culture/You're ***in' evil I want you to recognize that I'm a proud monkey" are as cold and harsh as it gets, turning the tables on the haters and labeling them - as well as also stating that essentially "you're the reason why African-Americans do the things in which label them that stereotype". The multiple layers to the songs on this is incredible, a ton of listening is gonna be coming if you're wanting to truly interpret this record.
The sounds of this record are delightful, just as much as it was in his previous record. It's much different than in his previous, which was layered in more West Coast G-Funk and R&B. While we may get on Kendrick's case for "i", which has garnered a ton of negativity from fans and hip-hop cans alike - there's no mistaking how enjoyable it sounds. The evident jazz influence that is meshed with the tropical electric guitar in the hook is undeniable, with also huge '70s influence - heavily sampling "That Lady" from the Isley Brothers. The spacey flute and strings in "Institutionalized" is groovy and filled with sass, fitting with the always-fun raps of Snoop and the soft croon of Bilaki. There's definitely a ton of jazz influence on the record, giving it a bit of an East Coast flavor while still showcasing its West Coast side as well.
There are plenty of reasons why "To Pimp A Butterfly" is as every bit as enjoyable as was "good kid, m.A.A.d city". Hell, there could be a debate whether this tops that because it is so good - the production is elegant, Kendrick spitting better than ever, and the instrumentation is absolutely divine. Unlike in his previous classic, this one is immersed in a darker, smokier atmosphere with less bright spots - the mechanical, almost industrial-like backdrop in "Institutionalized" is featured in abundance on this record (the opener "Wesley's Theory" is another). He isn't trying to build a different kind of 'butterfly' here with this record, no pun intended - Kendrick is trying to build on the qualities of it and creating a better one for the world to see. For once in our goddamn lives, we need to thank Interscope Records for making the major mistake and dropping this amazing record a week before its actual release. An idiotic mistake, but also brilliant - who thought brilliant and Interscope would be in the same sentence"