March 27, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ soars with powerful wordplay

"To Pimp A Butterfly"

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 release, “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” has been heralded as one of the greatest freshman rap albums of the decade, putting him in the company of Nas, Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G. and Kanye West. This forces “To Pimp A Butterfly,” his sophomore follow-up, to have among the highest expectations of any rap album in the past decade. By not repeating what worked on “good kid, m.A.A.d city” and switching styles up every few tracks, Lamar has produced another excellent set list that exceeds even the wildest of expectations.

Lamar has made an effort to switch the style of songs throughout, so no two songs are alike. “Wesley’s Theory,” the opening track, featuring funk legend George Clinton and produced by Flying Lotus, is a funk-based, groovy way to get the listener interested. “For Free?” immediately follows, and it’s essentially Lamar keeping up with a drum solo. It’s a fun track in which Lamar rhymes at blistering speed. “King Kunta” follows this quite naturally, with Lamar beginning by saying, “I got a bone to pick.” It’s a standout track on a standout album, with Lamar calling out his contemporaries. The funky backbeat prevents the track from becoming cliche. This is only three tracks into a 16-track album, and each one provides something different to contemplate. Each track is dense as well, as one will notice intricacies in production and rhyming on repeat listens.

“Mortal Man,” the final track, has gotten positive publicity lately. The production shifts midway through, and Lamar starts a fabricated interview with the late Tupac Shakur. It ties the album together. A continuous theme on the album is Lamar dealing with the effects of his fame and how he has become a role model. Lamar talking to one of his own role models, even in a mock setting, is breathtaking. “Mortal Man” concludes with Lamar explaining the significance of the title “To Pimp a Butterfly,” before seguing nicely into the opening track, “Wesley’s Theory” — the ending becomes the beginning. The most captivating part of the album is not the rhymes, nor the blend of beats and verses. It’s a simple conversation between two great artists.

“To Pimp a Butterfly” is another stunning work of art from Lamar. It’s creative and captivating. His second album on the books will leave the listener wondering how Lamar will follow it.