Kendrick Kept His Promise, but What Does It Mean for Hip-Hop?

ToPimpAButterfly Cover
A few months back, I watched Kendrick Lamar on The Breakfast Club. Angela Yee asked Kendrick “What should we expect from the new album?” His answer: “Don’t expect nothing.” Present day, we have “To Pimp A Butterfly” and even the Kendrick Stans are split on how to feel about the album.

On my first listen, this project felt like the rap version of D’Angelo’s VooDoo album. The spoken word pieces didn’t throw me off because he actually has one on Ab-Soul’s “These Days” album and that is his only feature on the album so I wasn’t surprised by that at all. Honestly from “Wesley’s Theory”, I totally erased TDE and Good Kid M.A.A.D City and their previous bodies of work. However, I did think about early West Coast Music, Dr. Dre sampling the mess out of Parliament and Snoop’s production since The Doggfather album.

Kendrick is taking it back, yet pushing it forward with this album. However, I’m not sure what that means for hip-hop. For me to listen to a rappers album and think of D’Angelo and Parliament is not a good thing, at least not from a hip-hop perspective.

Let me spare the suspense. I think “To Pimp A Butterfly” is a really good album. I also feel that calling it a hip-hop album is borderline disrespectful. It’s way more than “a hip-hop album”. Kendrick made a project that in an overall sense is genre-less. He did on his second mainstream album what most artist attempt to do on their 4th or 5th. I can’t really pick out “the hot songs ” right now because I’m still digesting it. I just play it front to back.

Example: You don’t buy a Prince or Michael Jackson album because you like the genre of music they are doing. You buy their albums because it’s them and you want to hear what they created. That’s what “To Pimp A Butterfly” is to me. Calling this “a rap album” is too vague and only explains the vocals of the project.

I don’t believe in calling albums classic after they been out for hours or a week, so I’m not entertaining a lot of conversation about this album or Kendrick in general. What I will say is, it’s about time that an artist makes an album that people want to talk about but can’t compare it to anything. It’s purposely making you focus on the music and not all the ignorant conversations that come with small minds. Kendrick and Drake don’t want to be compared. They are making it clear that “That guy can’t do what I do, so it doesn’t matter”. I’m not mad at that. I can’t be mad because good music from both parties is the outcome.

The only bad I see coming from this album is that more cats will try their best Kendrick renditions and now a lot of cats will be chasing this sound much like they did when Lupe first dropped and Jay-Z did Encore. Can we please just let originality live for at least 1 year, please? I’m begging y’all. Don’t copy, remake or interpolation this until Kendrick’s third album.

To Pimp A Butterfly should be listened to. It should be listened to because you want to hear some good music and maybe turn down just a little. The raps are on point and I think there’s even some lyrical growth from Kendrick on this album. However, I’m not sure what mainstream is going to do with it. Honestly, you could play 90% of this album on an Urban AC station. Kendrick could perform at a steppers set with album. This album might be understood more in a “Purple Rain” movie format. All that is why I’m not limiting Kendrick to being a “hip-hop artist who puts out rap albums”. At this very moment, that is unfair.

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