Album Review: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly by abaan12

This review is one of our entries for the special best reviewers competition we’re running as part of the Leicester ArtBeat Festival 2016. Check it out and enter – there’s still time!


Kendrick Lamar is easily to me and many others one of the biggest rappers in this generation. He’s part of a rap group Black Hippy who also have new and rising artists like Jay Rock, Ab Soul and Schoolboy Q. Kendrick’s latest album To Pimp A Butterfly has recently won Grammys such as rap album of the year and it was nominated for album of the year. The rap album not only talks about societal issues and racial injustice but has deep lyrics and soul beats as well as jazz beats.

Producers include big artists like Dr. Dre, Pharrell Williams and Terrace Martin. The song ‘U’ is about Kendrick’s depression and how money and fame isn’t everything as shown in lyrics like “money can’t stop a suicidal weakness.” He features artists such as Snoop Dogg and amazing vocals from Anna Wise and Bilal. The songs’ deeper meanings are really brought out, especially in songs like ‘These Walls’, about Kendrick abusing his power as a rapper. However Kendrick really expresses his views in the last song ‘Mortal Man’ with Tupac Shakur, considered by many as one of the most influential black artists in the last 50 years.

Album Review: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Although Kendrick ‘spits’ deep bars leaving you shocked and wanting more, he also has songs which you can laugh to like ‘For Free?’. But songs which you can dance to and make you feel great like ‘I’ and ‘Alright’ is where you hear beautiful production and amazing/controversial lyrics. Out of his three albums, To Pimp A Butterfly is easily his greatest, and he just seems to be getting better and better. From ‘Section.80’ to ‘Good Kid M.A.A.D city’ to ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’. Just like his 2016 Grammys performance, Kendrick is amazing and an inspiration to many around the world.

The story of this album builds upon the story of Kendrick’s other albums. With themes such as society and it’s flaws as well as things like depression, self-hate and learning to love himself. Along with this, he also discusses his religious views in songs like ‘How Much a Dollar Costs’, which is about how American society treats African Americans and how African Americans treat each other and their community. Kendrick struggles with fame and tries to make sure the music industry doesn’t change him as a person in songs like ‘For Sale?’ where he fights/struggles to resist the temptations that come with fame and money. At the end of the song ‘I’ Kendrick tries to communicate with an angry crowd. Kendrick asks for calmness instead of gang violence and says that black people are tired of playing the victim, saying ”we ain’t got time to waste time”. In ‘Mortal Man’ he asks his fans “when s*** hit the fan, is you still a fan?” Lines like this question the reader, can the artist’s actions be separated from the message in his music?

Kendrick changes his flow and voice to fit tracks

This album can be a joy to pretty much everyone, with Kendrick changing his flow as well as his voice to fit the track. There is also some very smooth funk music in the song ‘These Walls’ and hardcore hip hop in the song ‘Blacker the Berry’. But what is really unique about this album is the little poem being told at the start or end of nearly every track, and as the album goes on the poem gets longer and longer and by the end of the album it beautifully ties up every single theme in the album. What is also cool about this is that the whole time Kendrick is telling this poem to Tupac Shakur. At the end of the last song Kendrick finishes with another beautiful poem summarising ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ and making the listener understand Kendrick’s points of view.

This is an album with a lot to love and to be honest, not much to dislike. Some people may think it’s a bit too long but there isn’t a song that should be taken out and all of them fit perfectly together in this album. To me I think it’s pretty much perfect. If I had to rate it I’d give it a 10/10 and I don’t think many people would disagree after hearing the album. Its themes, lyrics, production and just the album as a whole is a great roller coaster ride of amazement. To think just a few years ago Kendrick was hip hop’s underdog but today now he has one of the best rap albums of the decade! This album will be a joy to many and is great to listen to.