It’s been over two years now since I first heard that vinyl crackling. Whether I knew it or not, I would be listening an album that might as well be a modern classic. Of course, I’m talking about Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.
Released on March 23, 2015, To Pimp A Butterfly is the third studio album from Kendrick Lamar, and one that at the time was hotly anticipated due to his previous album, good kid m.A.A.d city, which was his debut for Interscope Records.
And much like To Pimp A Butterfly when it came out, good kid m.A.A.D city had a near immediate impact when it released. It was a long-ranging concept album about Kendrick Lamar’s life prior to becoming a famous rapper, when he was just another teenager trying to survive in the seedy world of Compton.
Lamar’s story resonated with a lot of people, and thanks to songs like “Swimming Pools” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, good kid m.A.A.D city would later be certified Platinum less than year from its release.
Going into To Pimp A Butterfly though, a lot of people were a little scared. Because Kendrick set such a high standard of quality with good kid m.A.A.d city, people were afraid he wouldn’t be reach that level of quality with a new album.
Two years later now, it’s honestly kind of funny that people didn’t think Kendrick could make something not only as good as good kid m.A.A.d city, but somehow better than his previous effort.
Much like good kid m.A.A.d city, To Pimp A Butterfly was an album high in scale, but still grounded in reality. That was another thing people were afraid about on To Pimp A Butterfly, on whether or not Kendrick would lose his humanity, which, gladly not the case.
If anything To Pimp A Butterfly was Kendrick’s reaction to his newfound fame and how he was handling it. There were already themes of homesickness and guilt on good kid m.A.A.d city, but these themes became more defined on To Pimp A Butterfly.
For me at least, songs like “u” and “The Blacker The Berry” hold more impact to me than anything on good kid m.A.A.d city, with the exception of “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” on that album. Lamar’s feelings of depression and anger are really impactful and just so, so real.
And one thing I’ve been seeing lately about Kendrick is the rising fear that he’s going to fall off. This fear comes mainly from his output last year with the release of the compilation/b-sides album untitled unmastered and his various guest features with artists like DJ Khaled, Sia, and Maroon 5.
Here’s the thing: I get why you’d be afraid. Though I loved untitled unmastered, he didn’t quite come through on all the features he did in 2016. But, that doesn’t really matter to me. At the end of the day, all I really care about is what he does on his next album.
At one point in time, I thought Kendrick couldn’t top good kid m.A.A.d city, and he absolutely proved me wrong. Who’s to say he can’t do it again?