To Pimp a Butterfly
It’s there in its title: a fucked-up universe in microcosm. But To Pimp a Butterfly is so much more than a juxtaposition of gangsta rap and smooth jazz, of righteous anger and desperate hope—it’s something stickier, something that actively dialogues with hip-hop tradition but ends up flailing at ghosts, screaming alone and drunk in a dark hotel room. It’s that good.Wracked with pain and pride, sadness and grossness, Kendrick Lamar’s third album doesn’t just sound vital—it takes his entrepreneurial spirit, spits it with a dowel, and lets it turn over and over some quietly burning fire for eighty minutes. With Flying Lotus, Lamar sounds capable of anything; with Boi-1da (“The Blacker the Berry”) he is only the epitome of rage, and it suits him just as well as the optimism of single “i.” “King Kunta” alone is a galaxy unto itself, so molecularly catchy, it is undoubtedly bigger than us all—until it fizzles out with a guitar solo that just sounds like crap. Every genius idea is accompanied by a terrible one, and for that To Pimp a Butterfly is Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece—fascinating, upsetting, and somehow totally wrong.