SOUND: HIP HOP
For a record laden with collaborations, the hand of Flying Lotus is most evident. The jazz fusion of his 2014 effort ‘You’re Dead!’ appears all throughout ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ which presents itself in the true form of an album. Flowing from start to finish and punctuated with growing fragments of a poem that we are only allowed to hear in its entirety at the end, gives the record a strong thread for Lamar to sew his stories onto. It’s slippery and agitated but it knows when to groove.
‘King Kunta’ rides a sinuous Clash-esque bass line, building with guitars and vocoders into one of the albums funkiest burners before sliding into the neo-soul of ‘Institutionalized’. Lamar quickly emerges as a vocal chameleon, sometimes gravelly and full bodied, sometimes reedy and thin, he shifts like Tom Waits at his most dexterous. His technique coming to a head on ‘u’. “Loving you is compliCATED” he growls over free jazz; dangerous, spiteful and hurt amongst the moments of genuine beauty and considered pop sensibility peppered throughout the LP. Lead single ‘The Blacker The Berry’ encapsulates Lamar’s vitriol and vitality in its most concentrated dose. “I want you to recognise that I’m a proud monkey,” he jibes, “this plot is bigger than me, it’s generational hatred."
This record is full to say the least, shout-outs to contemporaries young and old, George Clinton and an 8-minute spoken outro that puts its last hope for change back into music. ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is a big powerful statement that refuses to cater to middle America, instead standing up to give itself a fighting chance of shocking it.