Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly (Album Review)

Kendrick Lamar's previous album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, put the rapper in league with some of hip hop's biggest stars. The album had a massive name attached to it as Dr. Dre was the executive producer and appeared on the album. Lamar had built his name up through a series of mixtapes and a debut album. There's no other way to put it; Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was Lamar's arrival to the mainstream public and a crowning achievement for rap/hip-hop. It debuted at number two on the Billboard chart, received multiple Grammy nominations, and had many successful singles. Fast forward to 2015 when, after a slight delay as the album was originally rumored to be released in 2014, To Pimp A Butterfly Kendrick's third album has been released. The big question on many music fans mind is simply: Does it live up to the hype?

The hype around this album is massive. Like I said, Kendrick is now in a league where he is competing with artists like Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, etc... all the big names. The first three songs heard from this album were massively picked apart. Among them was "King Kunta" which seemed to divide people. I thoroughly enjoyed the song. It took a few neat twist and turns. I really enjoyed the g-funk aspects of it. Lamar sounded solid over the beat. Honestly of the three songs it was my favorite on first listen. I did enjoy "I" and "The Blacker The Berry". "The Blacker The Berry" is a definite standout song of Kendrick’s so far. The album, as a whole, has a ton of enjoyable moments. "Mortal Man" closes the album and is a beast of a song. It ends the album so strong lyrically. It's a great closing track with a neat interview ending aspect. Kendrick cuts together new questions from himself interviewing 2 Pac. The 2 Pac interview is pieces of a nineties interview edited to fit Kendrick's questions. "Hood Politics" shows Kendrick's flow at its finest ending with a spoken word poetry moment.

The thing I like about the album the most is it is a cohesive album and not just a lumping of singles. The songs have some nice transitions throughout that help tie it together really well. It really is an experience from the first to last track. The beats provide some good twists and turns and the guests on the album don't feel like overkill. This album lets Kendrick shine as the star at about every turn. I think Good Kid, M.A.A.D City showed that as well, but there were a few times when Dr. Dre's work and appearance on the album stole the show. Dr. Dre's involvement with this album in no way overshadows Kendrick. There are moments here or there when some of the beats take you out of the listening experience slightly. The moments when things don't fit are really minor, but occasionally an odd thing will pop up. I'm also usually not a fan of interludes on an album as about ninety percent of the time they kill the flow for me or come off as lame or boring. However, they actually really work on this album nicely and add to the album quite a bit.

The production on the album is good. It's nice to see producers like Flying Lotus, Taz Arnold, Pharrell, Terrace Martin, and Thundercat contributing to the album. The beat selection works really well for the album and I think it has a nice flow. The beat for "King Kunta" from Sounwave is really cool. It has you checking twice just to make sure it isn't a lost DJ Quick beat. I think I enjoy the song even more after hearing the entire album and especially where it's placed on the album. The album, as a whole, has a lot of moments that remind me both of current and classic hip hop in production style and I really like that a lot. There are more than a few moments of great jazz influences.

I think with this album and for all that is expected of Kendrick Lamar he has lived up to the hype in my mind and created a pretty darn good follow up to Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. Kendrick provides some of his strongest lyrical writing on this album. The album is produced pretty masterfully.  It is still early in the year but I honestly could see this landing in my top 10 favorite albums this year. It seems like an album that sounds good on the first few listens but it has potential to grow on me more throughout the year. Check this one out!

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