"But TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY. It's the American dream..."
March 16, 2015 5:44 PM   Subscribe

Today, Kendrick Lamar's latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, was released a week ahead of the release date. Yesterday, the album was briefly made available on iTunes (allegedly, the label's error). But enough of that - let's get to the music.

For the uninitiated, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth is one of hip hop's greatest rising stars; part of the (formerly) indie label Top Dawg Entertainment, his critically- and comercially-acclaimed good kid, m.A.A.d city in 2012 led to numerous television performances, guest verses, and interviews.

To Pimp a Butterfly clocks in at 1 hour and 19 minutes spread across 16 tracks, two of which were released previously as singles ("i" and "The Blacker the Berry") and one of which had leaked. The tracklist itself had also leaked prior to release, revealing guests such as George Clinton and Snoop Dogg.

Further investigation of the track credits reveals an army of writers and producers as well, including Pharrell Williams, electronic producer/musicianFlying Lotus (Steven Ellison), and FlyLo labelmate/bassist extraordinaire Thundercat.

More on the Flying Lotus connection: while supporting the Yeezus tour, Ellison claims to have provided Lamar with instrumentals originally intended for one of his side projects that provided the inspiration for TPaB. This comes on the heels of FlyLo's own star-studded album, You're Dead.

The song lyrics weave an introspective narrative that engages with fame, race, depression, and more.

The album cover and title were first release as part of a somewhat cryptic Instagram post (from which the title of this post is derived).
posted by .holmes (35 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just heard about this today, with my first exposure being King Kunta; and the bass on that song alone has sold my purchase.

The Flying Lotus tweets are wonderful. I can see it now.

KD: "Who you hear on this beat"
FL: "I dunno George Clinton lol"
KD: "Okay I can make that happen"
FL: "wait what"

posted by solarion at 5:55 PM on March 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


And naturally, I forgot to include the audio of the Tupac Shakur interview that is extensively sampled on the last track, "Mortal Man."
posted by .holmes at 6:00 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm delighted to see that Whoarei (NSFW sometimes) produced a song on this album. “I Cant Stop Overthinking Everything And Im Feeling Overwhelmed” has been a favorite for a while.
posted by chinesefood at 6:03 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ahhhh for some reason l missed this, and it's totally turned my crappy day around. Thanks .holmes!
posted by Fig at 6:14 PM on March 16, 2015


Just about to plug in and listen to this through. So excited, and good post.
posted by auggy at 6:18 PM on March 16, 2015


I know nothing about Kendrick Lamar, apart from that it's a name I've been seeing mentioned here and there lately. But I've been listening to this album this morning and...yeah it's good. Real good stuff.
posted by Jimbob at 6:58 PM on March 16, 2015


ooh yes. Listening now.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 7:27 PM on March 16, 2015


It is absolutely brilliant.
posted by padraigin at 7:39 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Most Important Rapper Title Match Complete
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:39 PM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


God I love the new 70s funk influence in hardcore rap so much. I mean new/old but still. This is true fucking gangsta.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:44 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I want to get this, but.... $15? I mean, I shouldn't care, but... $15?
posted by Going To Maine at 7:44 PM on March 16, 2015


I want to get this, but.... $15? I mean, I shouldn't care, but... $15?


But it is so worth it. it is a phenomenal piece of art and your money is going to pay for a crack crew of modern jazz musicians.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:00 PM on March 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Huh. The actual CD is $14 on Amazon available now with Prime, listenable on Spotify. Is it supposed to be out at all at this point?

I suspect the price will drop through several brackets shortly; his 2012 "real" album debut is the typical $7 "non-new-release" Amazon MP3 Pricing (with the "mixtape" freebie album being more expensive to download, ha) and you're actually getting the physical CD plus a download, but this I suspect the price is a up-front way to make some fast and deserved money from the fans who just want to support Kendrick and say they bought the album as soon as it came out. I would personally love it if there was a niche for artists who actually do make a decent amount of money from album sales and don't focus so much on touring, but I won't digress.

I have no idea how much of the "excess" is going straight to the artists and technicians involved and am curious to find out now.
posted by aydeejones at 8:03 PM on March 16, 2015


But it is so worth it.

Well, yeah. But I also just got the Best of Black President comp, and the new Sufjan is on its way, plus the Levon Vincent LP, and No Cities To Love still needs more love... it's both a great and a bad time to be me, musically speaking, is what I'm saying. I'll probably wait until the the token raves come in and then cave.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:07 PM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I want to get this, but.... $15? I mean, I shouldn't care, but... $15?

Buy it, rip it, resell it.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:11 PM on March 16, 2015


That would, alas, violate my personal & convoluted code of ethics when it comes to dealing with CDs.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:17 PM on March 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


This feels like the most important hip-hop album in years.
posted by saul wright at 8:30 PM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


great album.
lot of personal friends on the "personnel" list of this record, but more importantly... this is a record that feels like where i'm from.

this feels like leimert park.
this feels like downtown.
and everything in between.

i remember buying an older gentleman's record collection when i was a kid and found a bunch of records stamped "SOLAR: Sound of Los Angeles Records..." this is the sound of Los Angeles.

i'm so excited for people to take notice of LA, beyond snoop, dre and pac.
and so happy for this record. i love it.
posted by raihan_ at 9:12 PM on March 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


This record is absolutely bonkers in the best way. It's maximalist, dense, arty... It's exactly the kind of thing I was hoping Kendrick would make after hearing his earth-shaking guest spot on Flying Lotus's recent album. It's going to take an untold number of listens before I can begin to unpack everything going on in this thing.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 11:06 PM on March 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Tupac interview in Mortal Man is...idk that's groundbreaking has anyone ever done something like that before?

This album is so incredible I don't have words to describe it.
posted by gucci mane at 1:25 AM on March 17, 2015


Spotify.com?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:11 AM on March 17, 2015


That was a belated response to people asking about the 15$ price tag.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:34 AM on March 17, 2015


Either that or I am a bit. Good morning.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:34 AM on March 17, 2015


a bit sleepy is what that was supposed to say. Wow. I'm ruining this thread.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:39 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


a bit sleepy is what that was supposed to say. Wow. I'm ruining this thread.

No no. Keep going. I'll accompany you on a spare trap set and then one of the other MeFites can add dashes of saxophone here and there.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:29 AM on March 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Further investigation of the track credits reveals an army of writers and producers as well"

One of the things I love about modern hip-hop (and pop, I suppose) and something I desperately wish indie/rock would catch up on, is collaborations / guest writers and mixing up producers for one big album.

I listened to the album twice yesterday and it's so varied, but still cohesive? It seems like an artistic statement by Lamar using all his friends to help him, rather than, say , Beck, who is the sole songwriter with one producer/engineer sitting behind the desk (maybe not true in his last album, but I hope you get my point).

I suppose there is something "true" or romantic about hearing one songwriters album output, but there is something just so fun, calaborative and "now" about big sprawling hip hop albums with multiple inputs, influences, voices and statements. It all seems so intentional, whereas a single songwriter often struggles with album filler.
posted by remlapm at 8:39 AM on March 17, 2015


Finished my first listen. It's a lot to take in. Here are some of my initial impressions.

In a lot of respects, it's a bit odd that this is Kendrick's second album (technically third, I know). One of the most amazing things about GKMC was how many risks it took, especially from someone who was a relative unknown and newcomer to the scene. Not a collection of songs, but an actual album when the very concept is being outdated. An introspective autobiography, confidently told in a compelling manner by someone who has obviously studied the work of the genre's masters. Executed with skill and care, but tons of creativity and vision to make GKMC an outstanding work of art that is still very rooted in the genre that it's classified in.

One of the first things that you notice about this album is how exhausting it is. It's very emotionally charged, almost all anger and the refusal to accept things as they are. Kendrick is angry at racism, injustice, and his own inability to change the status quo. He's angry at himself because he wants things to change and he wants to make things better but he's not sure if he's doing enough and at times he feels like he's abandoned the struggle for the comforts of fame, glory, and wealth.

It's not an easy core to build an album around, is what I'm saying. The very nature of this conversation, and it does feel like a conversation because Kendrick doesn't give you any conclusive answers, gives this album a much broader feel when compared with GKMC.

At times it almost feels incomplete, even though it isn't. It feels less confident than GKMC but I don't think that's right either. This album feels like Kendrick had something really important to say but wasn't sure what was going to happen once he got it all out, which might be where it feels less confident but I'm not sure if that's a fair thing to say. He knows the message is important and he knows it should be heard, but he doesn't have any neatly packaged answers on how to fix things which is in a lot of respects a brave statement to make.

Definitely going to need some more listens before I can put together any more thoughts on it.
posted by C^3 at 8:47 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've only listened to it once, but, right now, it's probably my favorite album so far this year.

Thanks for the great post--I was just going to put up a link to The Overwhelming Blackness of Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp a Butterfly.'
posted by box at 9:40 AM on March 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


God I love the new 70s funk influence in hardcore rap so much. I mean new/old but still. This is true fucking gangsta.

What goes around comes around. Thrilled as hell that the Sons of the P vibe is coming back around.
posted by blucevalo at 11:34 AM on March 17, 2015


Minor indie nerd geek-out moment: there's a beautiful sample of Radiohead's "Pyramid Song" in "How Much A Dollar Cost" - stretched out, but not distorted, so good.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:54 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Grantland has opinions.
posted by box at 11:59 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's a stupefyingly ambitious album. And when it's good, it blows everything else in hip-hop out of the water.

But at 78 minutes, with endless digressions and spoken word pieces, it's long, it's bloated, it's tiring to listen to. There's plenty of moments that strike me as corny and too "poet's voice", which gets in the way of the album's classic potential. I know that's not a popular opinion, but it's how I feel after a few listens. Outkast's Aquemini is nearly as long and arguably as ambitious, but there's no point at which it feels like you've wandered into an overly earnest poetry slam.

Anyway, to double down on this blasphemous take, I thought to myself "would it be improved if it was a lean 45-minute album?" Here's my attempt at that, the "Abridged Edition": rdio, spotify. I know the very idea of cutting out over half an hour is ridiculous on its face, but god help me, this is the version I'm most into right now.
posted by naju at 5:40 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


In October 1994 me and my friend Chris went to the opening night of Pulp Fiction. This was before it was "Pulp Fiction, cultural touchstone". It was just a cool-looking flick that was coming out from a dude whose previous flick we liked.
As such, it was hard (impossible) to get anyone to go with us.
Which was just as well since it was a packed house.
So the thing ends and we are just floored. We drove all over town trying to find friends out that night that we could freak out to about what we just saw.
At one point we parked in the Old Market got out and just jumped around going like "can you fucking believe that shit!?"
Those moments don’t come around a lot. You get jaded with music, you get jaded with genres, you get jaded with being jaded. But every now and then a cultural lightning bolt just hits and it feels like it resets everything. This is one of those times. And it doesnt come from someone making something “new” through calculation of trends. It comes from heart.
I have lived through a lot of classic album releases. Some are classics immediately and some grow into classic status over time. Some you know on the first listen are seismic (Nevermind, Chronic) and game-changing in a way that they feel like they have always existed. I’ve often wondered what it was like to hear a record like “What’s Goin’ On” on Day One. With no preconceptions and no hype or expectation. As much as any record I’ve heard in my four decades dicking around here on earth, To Pimp a Butterfly feels like that.

We don’t get these very often.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:24 AM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thanks for the great post--I was just going to put up a link to The Overwhelming Blackness of Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp a Butterfly.'

Carl Wilson At Slate: Loving U Is Complicated: How should white listeners approach the “overwhelming blackness” of Kendrick Lamar’s brilliant new album?
posted by Going To Maine at 2:29 PM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was talking to one of my friends, who mostly stopped listening to rap in the late '80s, and it hit me that the bloated-albums thing can really be blamed on the CD--once you had that seventy-some minutes, a lot of people needed to get all of it to feel like they were getting their money's worth. It's kind of anachronistic, after the mixtape-CD era and into wherever we are now, that the seventy-odd-minute thing is still around.
posted by box at 6:59 PM on March 25, 2015


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