Rather reluctant to admit that when To Pimp a Butterfly was released you couldn’t get me within a foot of the Grammy nominated album. I’m an old school Kendrick fan who’s been hopelessly stuck on Section 80 since it’s release in July 2011. Upon TPAB’s debut, the internet was flooded with a slew of negative feedback from “it has no clear direction” to it’s not the type of album you can bump in your car”. Unfortunately, I too jumped the gun on the quality of TPAB filing it under a meaningless work of garbage. Clearly, I didn’t realize how deep and impactful To Pimp a Butterfly actually is.
A couple of months following the release of the album and some convincing from a friend, I eventually gave TPAB another more thorough listen. To no surprise, I fell in love with the album in its entirety. The level of depth and artistry truly had my mind whirling with thought. Rolling Stone stated in a recent article that,
“Thanks to To Pimp a Butterfly, 2015 will be remembered as the year radical Black politics and for real black music re-surged..”
Not only is TPAB an album signifying growth, but also an album used to inspire musical conversation.
Possibly the best record on the album entitled “U” does just that. It is a ruthless self critique heavy with pain and resentment. What makes this song so interesting, is the quality of overt vulnerability within the record and the aspect of looming self evaluation. Typically, vulnerability is not something often seen in hip hop so it is uniquely refreshing to witness such emotion. This song is particularly powerful because Kendrick works to pull from his actual life experiences, much like the rest of the album.
If I could have chosen two number one songs on TPAB, my next choice would easily be “Hood Politics” because it reminds me of the flow and sound of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. Just the mere sound of the album can inspire nostalgic memories of even some of Kendrick’s older work, Section 80. Kendrick uses this record to distinguish between the time before he rose to fame and fortune to when all he knew was the hood.
“Momma” and “These Walls” come in respectively as my third and fourth favorite hits. “Momma” is intriguing because Kendrick mostly discusses his journey to South Africa and his discovery of himself while being in the motherland. His trip to Africa inspired many of the songs on this album. “These Walls” is a creepily resentful record outlining the sorrows of revenge. It’s up beat sound is no match for its lyrical meaning.
It’s no wonder that TPAB is up for a Grammy nomination for album of the year. Kendrick’s influence on hip hop is really prevalent in this album by opening a way for new sounds and thought. Yeah it’s art, yeah it’s deep, but is it worthy of being Grammy nominated album of the year? Never mind the mind blowing beats and samples utilized in the album, the lyrics are enough to keep your head spinning. This album is not just music but it is art that requires thought and understanding. To Pimp a Butterfly, is not the type of album you’ll listen to once and fully comprehend. It may not even be the type of album you hear in the club or at the red light bumping in someone’s car but it is the type of album to win a Grammy for album of the year.