After keeping us waiting for nearly TWO-AND-HALF YEARS Kendrick Lamar has finally dropped the release date for his album,
it’s set to drop exactly one week from today on March 23rd TODAY! This blog post was meant to drop a week before the album, but the album’s early release means that the post you’re about to read covers ‘expectation’ for the album, rather than ‘reaction’. Hopefully it still makes for an entertaining read!
Before I give you my expectation, here’s Kendririck’s:
Although we can expect 16 tracks from the album, we’ve only heard two so far, ‘I’ and ‘The Blacker The Berry’ and these are the tracks I’m going to talk about.
I haven’t listened to the album yet, so I’m going to base my expectations off of what I’ve heard so far (‘I’ and ‘The Blacker The Berry’) and the undertones present in the album title/artwork.
‘To Pimp A Butterfly’…. Thought-provoking… Insightful… and Confusing. These are the words that best describe Kendrick’s choice of album title. This breaks the mold of Kendrick’s previous album titles which have been very self-explanatory to say the least (‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’, ‘Section 80’, ‘Overly Dedicated’, etc), suggesting that we can expect a profound album that reflects the complexities of the title.
My interpretation of the title is that the butterfly represents the innocence of black culture prior to the slave trade, whilst the the pimp is representative of a slave master taking advantage or ‘Pimping’ the resources and talents of Africans. Not only does the title allude to an album that will cover themes of black oppression, it also seems to suggest a theme of Black Empowerment. From my reading of the title, ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ isn’t a statement, but a Question, ‘What happens When You Take Advantage Of The Innocent?’….. The answer…. They Fight Back!
Rebellion and Oppression are the two themes intertwined throughout black history (whether it be during the Civil Rights Movements or the Slave Trade) and if the Pimp and the Butterfly metaphor is anything to go on, these themes will feature in the album.
A backdrop of the White House with thugs holding money at the forefront and some writing around the side.That’s literally all the cover offers us. But what I see is a cover that offers two very different aspirations for a black male in American society.
Aspiration #1– The writing at the side has an arrow pointing to the white house, proudly proclaiming “We On!”, an obvious reference to Barack Obama, showing that any man, regardless of race or background can aspire to be anything thing desire.
Aspiration #2– Money and Jewelry.
By putting the depiction of ‘Aspiration #1’ (Money and Jewelry) in plain sight and Aspiration #2 (The White House) in the distance, it would suggest that Kendrick still sees the more common/realistic aspiration for an African-American male being in the form of money and jewelry, rather than becoming President. Basically saying, Nothing’s Changed.
Defiance! This track is a bold anthem against discrimination. It’s not trying to stop discrimination, but instead saying that discrimination is meaningless if the target of the abuse can say ‘I Love Myself’. It’s also doubles up as the album’s first single and attempt to gain commercial appeal.
Although it failed miserably in its second objective, it definitely succeeded its the first! Upbeat messages of peace and harmony are (unfortunately) uncommon in modern hip hop and this track incorporates the message in a proud unapologetic way that we don’t see enough.
The Blacker The Berry:
For lack of a better word this song has a ‘Yeezusy’ feel. The Funk-Reggae inspiration in this song adds an aggressive edge, completely dissimilar to ‘I’. It tackles the conflict between ‘black and white’, focusing on the perceived hatred white people have for black people, a theme we’ve seen time and time again. Where this track radically differs from the overused narrative of whites abusing blacks is in the third verse. In this verse, Kendrick takes the unorthodox step of calling out African-American’s as being just as detrimental to their own progression as any White person has ever been!
EXPECTATION: I expect the album to receive rave reviews from critics, but not from his fans. The ‘Jazzy/Neo-Rock’ sound of the efforts we’ve heard so far (‘I’ and ‘The Blacker The Berry’) is fine in small doses, in fact it provides a refreshing change from the ‘DJ Mustard saturated hip hop’ we’ve had forced in our ears over the past year. However, a whole album like this (which is what I expect) will provide NO OPPORTUNITY FOR BANGERS!
Personally,I feel that the lack of a banger will be a big miss in an album this highly-anticipated. I fear that Kendrick will fail to appeal to the listener who doesn’t want to have to visit Rap Genius every other line to understand a song. Even though he will produce an album that explores deep concepts, it will be delivered in such a confusing way that it will fly over the ears of the people it’s aimed at…. The ordinary person.
If Kendrick goes the route I expect him to, It will make for an interesting educational lesson in black history, but not an album that resonates in the streets the same way Good Kid M.A.A.D City did.
What Do You Expect From The Album? and if you’ve already listened to it, Is The Album What You Expected? Do You Wish Kendrick Just Gave Us Another Good Kid, M.a.a.d City or Is This The Change Of Direction Hip Hop Needs?
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