14: Kendrick Lamarr: To Pimp a Butterfly

Jesus, where do you even start with this…?

I’m probably going to write 200 or so words here about Lamarr’s third album, but it’d be ridiculous to even attempt to dip my toes into the themes, the lyrics and the general commentary offered by a set that is so layered, complex and intelligent that it can be almost intimidating. I’d need far more space to even scratch the surface of this record, I’d need twenty big books to put them in, twenty pretty girls to carry them down and twenty deep holes to bury them in. This is an album that opens with a track that turns the story of Wesley Snipe’s incarceration on tax evasion charges into an operatic parable on how poor black males are never schooled in correct management of money and celebrity, and then never lets up. Bizarrely even at 78 minutes it doesn’t feel overlong. ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is an insanely ambitious album, at once loose and intense, funny and deeply serious, unashamedly theatrical in places and absolutely chaotic throughout. If there’s one complaint it’s that Lamarr’s lyrics seem to often to be concerned with inner-improvement and self-belief rather than the angry commentary on wider society exhibited by D’Angelo (‘i’ sounded disappointingly prosaic as a lead single), but that’s just an idiotic complaint by a dumb guy who hasn’t delved near far enough into the record: if you were literally going to listen to one album this year it’d be this, as 365 bouts of 24 hour days would still feel like not enough time spent unravelling its many layers.

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‘Fun’ Fact: How Much a Dollar Cost’ is the second best song to sample Radiohead’s Pyramid Song ever, after Plan B’s original version of ‘Missing Links

OK, I’ll dedicate some time to this album, though certainly not an entire year, in fact right now I can only really spare three minutes and 55 seconds: Enough time to take a swing at ‘King Kuntathen. Coincidentally, ‘King Kunta’ was my nickname at school

Album Link

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