Monday, March 23, 2015

[Album Review] Kendrick Lamar - "To Pimp A Buterfly" - By @SincerelySaRese


If you were to close your eyes not knowing what you were about to listen to, the alto saxophone being played by Terrace Martin coupled with Robert Glasper on the piano, transports you into a scene from Mo’ Better Blues.  The Jazz influence on this album is incredible but if you’re no stranger to Dot then you know production like this isn’t new to him or any of his previous projects.

I’m sure I didn’t catch every sample on the album but a few of them include Smooth Criminal, The Payback, We Want The Funk, Every Nigger is A Star, On Your Own and That Lady. With appearances from Anna Wise, Lala Hathaway, Snoop, Ronald Isley, James Fauntleroy, Bilal, SZA, George Clinton and Pharrell Williams, Dot has found a way to keep us conscious while giving us music reminiscent of Cali in the 90s, drop tops and low riders, 40 ounces and cook outs. In one word, To Pimp A Butterfly is funky. I’ve been a fan of K. Dot’s since Overly Dedicated but this is like Section 80 on steroids; O-Dog (Menace II Society) meets Darius Lovehall (Love Jones).

With the amount of layers in this album, how do you start? It’s obvious that Dot needs to come out with his own version of Decoded but in the meantime we are left to repeatedly run his songs back while thinking “did he just say that?” There are several quotable lyrics throughout this album but probably one of the most infamous is from Hood Politics “From Compton to Congress set tripping all around/ ain’t nothing new but a flu of new DemoCrips and ReBloodicans/red state vs blue state what side you governing/they give us guns and drugs call us thugs make it they promise to f*&k with you/no condom they f*&k with you/Obama say what it do?”

It’s no secret that the government is the biggest gang in the world. Elections are rigged, they lie and tell us that our votes matter, they give our loved ones weapons, put them in uniforms and send them out to fight wars that aren’t our own. Our streets are flooded with drugs and guns and we participate in self-governed population control while they sit back and watch. And who has a front row seat, the leader of the free world, our President.

Perhaps the thing that stuck out the most to me is the Tupac interview. The first time I heard it, it made my skin crawl. At the end of Mortal Man Kendrick is reading what he opts not to call a poem, just his thoughts and at its conclusion he asks someone’s perspective. The minute he begins to answer, it’s clear that he’s talking to Tupac. Eerie is an understatement as Pac prophesizes the future (the initial interview was recorded in New York City 1994) stating that he believes the current generation is going to erupt into Nat Turner 1831. Chilling to say the least when you look at events like what happened in Ferguson.

Kendrick goes on to read what a friend wrote him describing his world, which is also where the title of the album stems. 
“The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it, its only job is to eat or consume everything around it to protect itself from this mad city. While consuming its environment, the caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive. One thing it notices is how much the world shuns him but praises the butterfly. The butterfly represents the talent, the thoughtfulness and the beauty within the caterpillar but having a harsh outlook on life the caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak and figures out a way to pimp it to its own benefits. Already surrounded by this mad city, the caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon, which institutionalizes him. He can no longer see past his own thoughts, he’s trapped. While trapped inside these walls certain ideas take root such as going home and bringing back new concepts to this mad city. The result, wings begin to emerge breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant. Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations the caterpillar never considered ending the internal struggle. Although the butterfly and the caterpillar are completely different, they are one in the same…”

Kendrick calls out to Tupac who doesn’t answer. Of course we know these are just excerpts taken from a previous interview but for a moment, Pac’s silence made me think that while Dot was explaining this metaphor to him, he was wrapping himself in his own cocoon, in preparation of his own metamorphosis and when Dot called out for his response, he couldn’t answer him. It reminds me of the scene at the end of Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton, 2010) when Alice is talking to Absalom and she looks to him for a response but he is already encapsulated. Dot speaks about vibrations and the energy that we put out into the world so to use Tupac at the end of his project was ingenious coupled with the analogy of a butterfly because the vibrations he left behind are still felt to this day.

I was always told that some people dream in color, some in sound, and others dream of nothing at all but it’s obvious that Kendrick Lamar is dreaming out loud.

1 comment:

  1. This is a masterfully put together article. I can appreciate the outlook given by the writer. I can honestly say i did't get the album the first time i heard it. Maybe because i'm such a fan, I wanted some bangers similar to his normal work. But Upon listening again, and reading this piece. I completely agree and understand where he is coming from and trying to go. It may be one of the most underrated classics of all time. Simply because i don't think our people are ready to listen. Its not dance music. Its not raw rap. Its a lyrical preaching. The hood in my opinion is either too uneducated to pick it up or too distracted by the influx of garbage on the radio. The conscious element to this album is beyond the average mind. When was the last time you heard ya homeboy speak on political views or agenda? K-dot is necessary. The tracks, if you take out he lyrics are musical genius. The government is the pimps family. We as Butterflies need to understand whats being taken from us. Our beauty, value, and how far we can fly. All we gotta do is try. Think about it. when you see a butterfly whether is a small one or a big one. Whether is a solid color or multi. You can't help but notice and watch it. K-dot is encouraging us to fly for the sake of ourselves. We are all we got. We are our own answer. Kudos to the writer and I enjoyed this piece. One Luv