Album of the Decade – To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar

The 2010s were a musical roller coaster. Genres were explored, filled, and broken down. Records got labelled, shattered, and spun till artists topped the Forbes. Out of the mire of basic rappers and oblivious pathos-addled crooners, authenticity shone through. We saw this with Kali Uchis, Lorde, Daniel Ceaser, and a few others, but one visionary stands above the rest. Capturing an essence of complexity and contradiction, fear and reality, oppression and freedom, Kendrick Lamar has defined the apogee for what rap can achieve. The pinnacle has been reached, and its name is To Pimp A Butterfly.

To Pimp A Butterfly has literally everything. Not figuratively everything, I mean literally everything you could possibly want from a hip-hop album. You want bangers? Boom, have a King Kunta. You want anthems? Kerchow, a wild Alright approaches. You want transcendent motifs and themes that culminate in a meditation on the role of celebrities and the responsibility and weight of their positions, with a final conversation between Kendrick and Tupac? Kaplow, it’s Mortal Man. The ambition of the project is frankly ridiculous, and, much like Buzz Aldrin, the man’s on the fucking moon. 

Each song in To Pimp A Butterfly takes a slice of life from Compton and Kendrick Lamar’s personal experience. Wesley’s Theory deals with the relationship between Lamar, success, and his hometown. How Much a Dollar Cost handles selfishness, religion, and the oppression of Uncle Sam. The Blacker The Berry speaks on self-hatred, the African-American experience, and hypocrisy. Every track contains pieces of the truth, and, when placed together, they succeed in delivering a stunning portrayal of modern society from Kendrick Lamar’s unique perspective.

It’s hard to fully encapsulate Kendrick Lamar’s sound. He carries himself with such a weight and presence that it’s impossible to imagine modern rap without him. He fully deserves to be held amongst the greatest of all time, an incredible feat for a man of only 32. To Pimp A Butterfly’s concepts and themes have proven to be part of the fabric of the 2010s. When we’re old and grey, playing music for our grandkids, this album will still have life in it. I will certainly be rocking my walker to King Kunta.

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