New Kendrick Lamar album takes crown


Ratley gave Lamar’s album a five out of five stars.

ULM Hawkeye

Ratley gave Lamar's album a five out of five stars.
Ratley gave Lamar’s album a five out of five stars.

Kendrick, we aren’t in Compton any more.

When “good kid, m.A.A.d city” (GKMC) was released in October 2012, Kendrick Lamar took control of the hip-hop world. The 5-foot-6-inch kid from Compton stood tall. If GKMC put Lamar on a pedestal, then his latest release, “To Pimp a Butterfly” (TPAB), is Lamar ascending even higher.

In GKMC, Lamar tells the individual story of a kid from the hood. The listener sees the transformation of K-Dot from a young man trying to navigate the streets to a man on top of the rap game.

Lamar continues this story in TPAB. He tells the story of how a butterfly goes through the transition from a caterpillar to a cocoon before reaching its final stage. The caterpillar is K-Dot.

Lamar starts the album telling how when he gets big he’s going to go crazy with the money. This represents the caterpillar and how it eats everything without much care. This is the “pimping” of the butterfly.

The second phase features Lamar realizing this. He soon becomes trapped in a cocoon of self-loathing for allowing himself to be pimped by Uncle Sam and Lucifer represented by a female named “Lucy.”

He eventually realizes that he must preach to the caterpillars in his home city. That is when Lamar completes his transformation and becomes the butterfly.

This story is told over 16 tracks. No track is wasted, as every single one is need to tell the complete story.

“King Kunta” highlights the first section of the album. Lamar raps about repping his city and that he “should probably run for mayor” when he’s done with the rap game. The title of the song is a reference to a slave, Kunta Kinte, who had his foot cut off for trying to escape a plantation. This represents resistance from the oppressive institutions that hold down people like Lamar.

The second part of the album features the most emotionally charged track on TPAB, “u.” This track shows Lamar at his absolute weakest. He is drunkenly contemplating suicide while his alcoholic habits are overheard in the background. He reflects on his friend being killed in Compton while he was out on tour.

He feels guilty that he never visited him in the hospital. He questions whether or not he deserves his success and if he should have stayed in the hood with everyone else. His actions as a caterpillar have left him with feelings of regret while in his cocoon stage.

“Blacker the Berry” shows his frustration with those still in his neighborhood. The butterfly has become aware of the way the neighborhood has allowed itself to been manipulated, or pimped, to only care about money and violence.

Lamar feels that he’s been hypocritical for criticizing the institutions whenever he has done nothing to disarm the stereotypical views of the black community. This is brought home by the final couplet when Lamar says that he cried when Trayvon Martin was killed whenever gang banging encourages him to kill other young black men.

The album includes a poem being read and expanded on after before finally being read in full on the final track, “Mortal Man.” He then talks to Tupac about the issues mentioned on the album and the concept behind the pimping of the butterfly.

The musical styles is very different from GKMC. There is a funky, jazz vibe to the album. This album aligns itself much more with “Section.80,” Kendrick’s debut studio album, than GKMC.

Despite the softer sounds, this album is one of the more emotionally charged hip-hop albums in recent memory. It’s an exhaustive listen that grips one’s attention and doesn’t let go.

K-Dot mentioned on “King Kunta,” his rise from a peasant to a prince and finally to a king. “Section.80,” showed his ambitions as a peasant. “Good kid, m.A.A.d city,” saw Lamar rise and become a prince. “To Pimp a Butterfly,” proves that Lamar has the social awareness needed to be the king of hip-hop.