This is kinda out of my comfort zone for various reasons. Recently, I’ve been repeatedly accused of being contaminated with „white guilt“ (probably not without any reason, considering my status and me being grown up as white, male and european, but my attempts to grow on that field might or might not be the topic of another blog entry). I rarely listen to a lot of HipHop regularily (with a few exceptions). And I’m not informed thoroughly on the topic.
Nevertheless, neither the recent police violence against black adolescents and the subsequent revolts and demonstrations of the population in various areas of the United States nor the current hype of Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album To Pimp A Butterfly have passed me by without attracting my attention.
By combining deeply personal and self-critical reflections with political statements and historical references, Kendrick Lamar creates a very dense and complex image of the situation of the black community in his country. This record aims at nothing less than being a historical document of the present time – and the most surprising thing is that it succeeds in this ambition. Knowledge of history, the scene, present events and and an untamed sense of vigor, determination and playfulness characterize this record and therefore make it a powerful political statement hard to ignore. The fact that he doesn’t even shy away to cause controversy even in his own camp is remarkable. (I especially love the part where the article states that second single The Blacker The Berry is „delivered with creative venom that made headline writers scramble for to find synonyms for “pissed off” (it’s “blistering,” “scathing,” “seething”)“)
And, not least, he completes the package by a wild and free-spirited combination of HipHop, Funk, Jazz and Soul that not only is incredibly inspiring, but also incredibly catchy and versatile. As rare as it is – listening to this record not only is intellectually overwhelming, but also very much FUN!
Here’s a man very confidently claiming for everyones attention to notice these topics that concern everybody, and he won’t swallow down his anger or leave his argumentative fist hidden in his pocket.
To immerse yourself a little deeper into the man, his music and his mission, i recommend the following articles:
- The Trails Of Kendrick Lamar (Rolling Stone Profile)
- On Kendrick Lamar and Black Humanity (Pitchforks The Pitch)
- For german readers, I recommend an analysis of the artwork of To Pimp A Butterfly and its numerous refereonces on the website of german hipster magazine Spex.
- Last but not least, NPRs All Songs Considered did a special edition, analyzing the song King Kunta a little deeper in regards to political, historical and musical references. Gives you a hint on how profound and complex this record is.
Tl; dnr: Kendrick Lamars sophomore album is a punch in the guts, an intellectual challenge, and an absolute fun to listen to. Even if the revolution still is yet to come, we got the soundtrack right here.