Socialist Worker

To Pimp A Butterfly: Kendrick Lamar has something to say about racism in the US

by Liz Wheatley
Issue No. 2447

To Pimp A Butterfly

To Pimp A Butterfly


I’d half decided I wasn’t going to like Kendrick Lamar’s new album To Pimp A Butterfly.

It was released on iTunes and Spotify in the early hours of Monday morning—who does he think he is, soul artist D’Angelo?

I quite liked his first album Good Kid, MAAD City, but I wasn’t ready to hail him as the saviour of hip hop. 

But there are more similarities with D’Angelo’s album than the way it was released. Lamar’s is not a typical hip hop album, just like D’Angelo’s Black Messiah is not a typical soul album. 

It’s not easy listening. It requires concentration and thought and at times is more like jazz and spoken word. And like D’Angelo, Lamar is also trying to say something about being black in the US today. 

He grew up in Compton, California, and had run-ins with the police. But Lamar doesn’t stay in Compton. 

He also rails against the gangs of the “Democrips” and the “Rebloodlicans”. The angriest track on the album, The Blacker The Berry, was penned after the murder of Trayvon Martin three years ago in Florida.

Lamar draws on the styles of 1970s funk and free jazz. The whole thing is both funky and angry. The experience of racism in the US runs right through it. While tracks such as “I” will probably get the most commercial air-play, the overall tone is much darker and all the better for it. 

After a few days of listening to To Pimp A Butterfly, I’ll admit that I really like it. Kendrick Lamar has released a different and important album. 

It’s great to see artists step up and have something to say about the current struggles against racism in the US. 

To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar. Out now

 


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Article information

Reviews
Tue 31 Mar 2015, 15:59 BST
Issue No. 2447
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.