is a great artist. Like any great artist, it's easy for your work to be misinterpreted. Imagine slaving hours in a studio (musical, dance, visual arts, etc.) for hours perfecting as best you can a creation which you hope to present to the world, only for people to receive it, praise it for the wrong reasons, and proclaim you the savior of your generation. That is exactly what happened to Kendrick with his major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d city
. good kid
was an instant classic. With incredible lyricism and storytelling coupled with phenomenal beats, the album vaulted Kendrick from underground king to instant superstardom. Everyone from Taylor Swift
to Lady Gaga
-- who was actually supposed to be on the album -- was behind the Compton kid.
What many people don't understand about good kid
is that they took the album in the wrong way. White America, since N.W.A., Tupac, and Notorious B.I.G., has loved hearing hardcore gangsta rap tales from the hood. Though frequently condemned by most conservative media as 'corrupting the youth', the ability for hip-hop to bring people of all ages and lifestyles into a housing project to explain the difficulties of life is one of the most magical examples of the unifying power of music. But what happens when that attempt to educate is instead glorified? Lamar's biggest hit to date "Swimming Pools (Drank)" is the perfect example. Used as an ode to celebrate how many shots you can take in the club or at a frat party, many people fail to realize Kendrick is condemning the addictive nature of drinking as well as the problems that can ensue from it. Lamar has gone on record many times admitting he does not even drink a lot. Perhaps he made his chorus too catchy, too much of a banger. I'm sure he's noticed the message being skewed. Other tracks like the album's masterful center-piece "m.A.A.d city" is frequently played at parties to get people hyped, all the while Lamar is depicting tales of murder, regret, and fear for his own life. The raps are incredible and the beat goes hard, so once again the underlying message was lost in translation.
Obviously, the incredibly deep non-radio ready songs on the back half of the album were ignored by the majority of the masses. Lamar definitely took notice in his crafting of To Pimp A Butterfly
. The instant classic
shies away from club hits with heavy drums or ambient beats that people can turn up to. Lamar, lyrically as sharp as ever, instead takes the audience on a different route. Using jazz and funk, a genre that is unstoppable right now
, Kendrick wanted his audience to pay attention differently. The album is a ride. Like any good jazz record, it requires repeated listens which is something my generation is not entirely into. As King Kendrick predicted before good kid
even came out, this is the ADHD generation.
is like the Netflix original series House of Cards
. The high octane drama and single serving aesthetic makes it easy to binge watch without actually taking in the full spectrum of everything that is going on. There is a lot of flash and a lot of stunting, but there is a lot of turmoil that many people tend to skip over. From an entertainment point, that is fine. From a teaching or pastor stance, which Kendrick recently called himself, this is far from good enough. To Pimp A Butterfly
is a slow burner, like the AMC classic Mad Men
. You have to peel back the layers and reflect on it slowly like a long novel. While it is easy to accept gang violence as a part of everyday culture, the racism heavy To Pimp A Butterfly
is not what White America wants to hear, but Kendrick doesn't care. His superb ear for beats and mastery on the microphone will make you listen. Kendrick is a great artist, but now he's learning how to present it on his terms.
Check out the video for Grammy winning single "i" below and go out and get To Pimp A Butterfly
as soon as possible.