Album: To Pimp a Butterfly
Album Reviewer: Michael Mariscal
It didn’t take much time under the spotlight for Lamar to release a really out-there album. Before his latest release, he had essentially only released one major album. It was a huge success, and led him to be nearly a household name.
And if he was anything like the vast majority of musicians to achieve fame before him, he would’ve played it safe and guaranteed himself at least a decade of fame by staying true to the style that got him his initial recognition. But Kendrick is different—dare I say, special?
Because nearly everything in this album is ambitious, innovate, and original. Jazzy, improvisational drums, keys, and bass dance from the lead to the background constantly throughout, in a manner obviously inspired by Flying Lotus (an incredible album in which Lamar was featured). Still the album keeps more accessible tracks—King Kunta, i—where Kendrick demonstrates his mastery over the modern style, but without compromising the experimental feel of the album. It’s almost like he’s saying, ‘look I can do it this way too, but let me show you something different’.
As impressive as this album is musically, it’s just as good lyrically. Using a character named Lucy to represent the devil, he explores themes like his fame and the effects it has had on himself and race, at one point referencing Mike Brown. The skits come and go sporadically, so the line between them and the rest of the music is blurred. And though at times they can break the rhythm of the album, if you are listening to what Lamar’s saying, their placement becomes clear in the context of the narrative.
It’s only March, but it’s clear this is going to be one of the best albums of 2015. With this, Lamar has cemented his place as one of the top rappers today. I give it a 4.5.