CLASSIC. A term used to say that something has come to be considered one of the best of its kind. Also used to say that something is an example of excellence. Hip Hop’s conversation over what is deemed classic or not has been something that been in heavy debate since LL Cool J and Run DMC had the genre by a death grip with albums like Bigger and Deffer and Raising Hell. All the way up to today with artist like Jay-Z and Kanye West holding the crown with ground breaking, generational albums that helped shape the genre.
Kendrick Lamar’s latest LP To Pimp a Butterfly fits right into that mold of an album that challenges the genre and more importantly, the listeners. Challenging, yeah challenging was the first word I thought of after the first time I got a listen about month ago. Most hip hop fans (myself included) tend to fall into the thought that a project is wack if it isn’t going the way they envisioned or it isn’t what they expect from particular artist. I still find myself having to defend Yeezus to this very day.
I didn’t have any clue about what his album would be, I heard “I” and initially I wasn’t a fan but really enjoyed it after the 3rd or 4th listen. I just didn’t know where Lamar was going with it, I wanted and was used to Good Kid Maad City and that wasn’t it. But I refused to make a decision on anything until I actually had an opportunity to sit with it for a while (as we all should, but hey rushing to judgment is what we love to do nowadays). After listening to it everyday over the past 21 days or so, I can honestly say that this album is just what they say it is. A Classic.
The album opens up with the most important track on the whole LP. Wesley’s Theory starts with a sample from the Boris Gardiner song “ Every Nigger Is A Star”. Kendrick opens the album with a verse that tells a story of his plan to put on for Compton and his homies after he gets a deal and makes his money. But with all the good that he feels he is doing, it all comes crumbling down when the uncle sam character enters and explains to him that all the things that he enjoys comes at a price. This track is the set up of the whole album. An inner struggle for Kendrick’s soul, which in turn creates an amazing up and down tale that highlights the survivor’s guilt and growth of a young man trying to rise past his situation.
I could break down each track and go in depth but at this point I’m sure you have read a million reviews and understand the point of all the records. The longer I sit with it, the more I pick up, and that in my opinion is the true sign of greatness in any LP. Reasonable Doubt, Illmatic, ATLiens ,The Chronic and so many others before it all possessed that ability. With all that being said, if you haven’t given the album time to grow on you or you just automatically dismissed it, take a moment and really smell the roses. Because we are witnessing that once in a generation “Classic” type album that changes the direction of a genre. - Marlon Anderson