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A very Mary overview

I never listened to Kendrick Lamar before “To Pimp a Butterfly.” And to be honest, I’m glad I didn’t. Without expectations from any of his earlier albums, “To Pimp a Butterfly” struck me as something brilliant. Laced with jazz and funk with bits of spoken word and dialogue, the album is a loud, rich story of personal struggles and struggles of the entire Black community. What sets this album apart is the political punch it packs. Lamar didn’t mean for this album to just be about himself, an autobiography, it tells the story and calls to action for something from society.

So where did the album name even come from? According to Lamar, the “To Pimp a Butterfly” was inspired as a direct contrast to the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird”. And the album certainly lives up to its inspiration by holding the same social commentary clout. With tracks like “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” and “Mortal Man,” Lamar contemplates the state of the Black grievances in present-day society and dares to criticize and dream of a better future for the African American community.

Aside from the social commentary, the album is also driven by a harsh inner tension. Lamar tells his own problems, namely that of accepting and loving himself. The line “loving you is complicated” is repeated as a mantra throughout the entire album, one that can take on to be directed towards himself or things bigger than himself. A standout track, “u,” is a harsh, discordant track that digs up all the vices Lamar recognizes about himself and lays them out in the open. It is a dark, tense track that pulses with self-loathing, and yet still manages to instill a sense of strength and provides a deep contrast to the next track, “Alright.”

The album is all about contrasts. Easy-going funk contrasted with Lamar’s somber lyrics. Loose bits of dialogue and spoken word with tight rhymes and double entendres. All this helps create a rich piece of work that one can dive into. “Alright,” a cool, uplifting track featuring a loose saxophone comes right after the dark “u” and paints a complete picture of just how capable humans are of overcoming trials.

All in all, “To Pimp a Butterfly” is a complex story hidden beneath a head bobbing groove. So go ahead and give it a listen if you haven’t already, it’s beyond anything you’ve heard before.

By Mary Zhang, Editor-in-chief



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