Kendrick Lamar ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ Album Review Roundup

March 16, 2015

Kendrick Lamar’s new album is ‘To Pimp a Butterfly.’ Music critics have weighed in on the multi-Grammy winning rapper’s sophomore studio album with positive and laudatory reviews, some already hailing it as a hip-hop masterpiece. Check out a roundup of what they have to say.

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar has become yet another music artist to surprise us with the release of an album. While not a complete surprise, the album’s Sunday night release on iTunes more than a week ahead of its scheduled Tuesday, March 23rd release was nonetheless greeted with social media excitement and fanfare. The unpredicted and unexpected continues to be a successful marketing strategy for artists whose albums albums are eagerly — indeed impatiently — anticipated.

Such is the case with ‘To Pimp a Butterfly,’ the follow-up to Lamar’s multiplatinum selling, critically acclaimed major-label debut, ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city,’ of 2012 which received seven Grammy nominations. The album was a searing exploration of his experiences growing up in L.A.’s Compton and signaled the arrival of a new MC of much gravitas, artistry and originality. Rave reviews from critics yes, but alas not a single Grammy. It was not until earlier this year, at the 57th Grammys that Lamar finally took home two Grammys for the song ‘”i” which appears on the new album.

As we eagerly awaited the album to drop on March 23rd little did we know what was about to happen on a Sunday night. The rescheduled release coincided with the 20th anniversary of the release of the late great Tupak Shakur’s classic album, ‘Me Against the World.’

And this was clearly by design as Kendrick Lamar himself sent out a series of Tweets as the album was hitting iTunes: “Yesterday. March 14th. Was a Special Day.” … “20 yrs. Later.” … “Keep calm. All is Well.”

As for the reviews of ‘To Pimp a Butterfly,’ let us say that once again, the critics are deeply impressed and not afraid to say so. Here’s a roundup.

“….Like Kanye West’s monumental Yeezus in 2013, Lamar has made something that feels truly genre-shattering with Butterfly — further cementing his status as not only one of the most innovative rappers, but artists, of the moment…..” — USA Today

“… Lamar is no longer primarily concerned with his own narrative, as he was on good kid, m.A.A.d city. Because of that, he’s also less readily digestible, mixing hood braggadocio, Black dysfunction, personal demons, spiritual yearning, mediations on fame with James Brown’s stomp, Sly Stone’s riot, a layered and stripped version of George Clinton’s mothership funk, loose free-form jazz and muscular, languid soul. The result is all over the place and in one place, at the same time…..” — Billboard

“…..A 2014 trip to South Africa inspired Lamar to pen “Mortal Man,” a song that finds the rapper name-checking Moses, Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. Throughout To Pimp a Butterfly. The track is simple and samples Fela Kuti’s “I No Get Eye for Back” from 1975’s Alagbon Close. As Lamar contemplates his own success, he weaves in samples from a 1994 Tupac interview with Swedish journalist Mats Nileskär on the show P3 Soul. The samples are woven with questions from Lamar to the late and iconic West Coast MC, creating an imagined dialogue between the pair. It’s an inspiring, humbling moment as Lamar looks to a hero for guidance as he finds himself becoming more of an influencer and spokesperson of a generation, similar to ‘Pac…..” — Rolling Stone

“…After releasing a classic, personal, confessional album, where was Kendrick Lamar supposed to go next? Last year’s upbeat single “i” hinted at the possibility of a more commercial follow-up LP, but To Pimp A Butterfly is far from that. It would be foolhardy to call an album a masterpiece from one listen, but rest assured that Kendrick’s new record is a very, very special one……” — GQ

“…You’re left disorientated and thrilled, which turns out to be the perfect preparation for a densely layered album on which any given song is liable to end up in a completely different place from its beginning. To Pimp a Butterfly is a musical tour de force, a confounding and distinct artistic and political statement along the lines of Erykah Badu’s landmark 2008 album, New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War or D’Angelo’s long-awaited 2014 comeback Black Messiah. …..” — The Guardian

“…. “To Pimp A Butterfly” is his chaotic, psychedelic, unapologetically militant, sexually and socially charged follow-up to his breakthrough, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.”

“In fact, as strong as that album was, this one is better and more compelling, anchored in retro-soul, funk and jazz. This feels like an updated statement from the socially-conscious works of the late-sixties and early seventies, and it is an album packed with tremendous complexity….” — ABC

Yes, it’s clear that with ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ Kendrick Lamar has cemented his place in music history. You can watch the official music video of album’s Grammy-winning lead single, ‘i’ below.

Pictures: PR Photos

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