Whether it was due to a screw-up at Interscope Records or a fortuitous twist of fate, Kendrick Lamar’s hotly anticipated third studio project To Pimp A Butterfly was released on iTunes and for streaming on Spotify before its scheduled March 23rd release date. I managed to grab a copy before the explicit version was taken down, and I can safely say that while it’s not exactly perfect, it’s far and away K.Dot’s most ambitious, sociologically important, and sonically lush album to date, a hip-hop, R&B, jazz, spoken word poetry, and P-funk gumbo brought to a boil by the new dynamic of American racial tensions. And I really enjoyed it.
Like his other full-length efforts Section.80 & good kid, m.A.A.d. city, To Pimp A Butterfly is a very cinematic album, a holistic piece that’s better taken as a whole greater than the sum of its parts; it’s not often that you can find an album in a modern context that works as an experience with a beginning, middle, and end, but TPAB pulls it off, even if its middle section drags a bit. It’s still an incredibly dense record sonically, thematically, and reference-wise. And believe me (and the rest of Twitter) when I say that multiple listens will benefit your perspective. Influences range from George Clinton and Ronald Isley (who both appear on the album), to Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets, to blaxploitation films and Alice Walker novels, but taking Kendrick’s interest in film into account (good kid, m.A.A.d. city was subtitled “a short film by Kendrick Lamar,” which led to the Khalil Joseph-directed short film m.A.A.d. from last year), the film vibes I got from this project stuck out to me more than any other. Read on as I attempt to draw filmic comparisons to eight cuts from K.Dot’s new album.