Kendrick Lamar was snubbed again. Last year he was snubbed for one of the biggest Hip Hop albums of all time, and this year he was snubbed for one of the biggest albums ever. Period.

To Pimp a Butterfly showcased his stylistic dexterity, switching seamlessly from old-school west coast flair, to coffee shop, jazz infused slam poetry, to Soulquarians-esque consciousness, to nuanced, angry, potent social commentary. He did it all. He and his collaborators created an artistic masterpiece that will undoubtedly stand the test of time, even before considering all of the overwhelming critical acclaim.

Framed by a poem that gradually comes together, Butterfly soared where other albums only trundled forward. Each and every song rang with urgency upon first listen, and continued to do so with repeated listens. It even works well when the songs come on shuffle, and achieves a rare thought: wondering how he could have chosen a single from such a strong collection.

“Alright” was an immediate standout, so that’s the one I’ll post here. It’s timely and it’s authentic. No punches are pulled and no gimmickry is needed. A real voice sends a real message about race. It’s uplifting and real, and it is lacking in naivety or reductionist thinking. It’s an undeniably catchy song, too, about as anthemic as any badly-massacred hair-metal song at a karaoke, but with some actual substance. Alright’s placement serves as a pivot point, a rebound from one of the darkest tracks he’s ever offered. 

But even beyond the music and the strength of both parts and whole, the rarest achievement is the urgency and need to listen to the ending of Butterfly: a conversation with Tupac via recordings and interviews. He does it so well that you can’t help but wonder about his acting chops. In fact, I cry pretty much every time I hear Pac fading away and Kendrick’s pleas for him to stick around – a gorgeous and fitting end for a gorgeous and well-timed album.

Afterthought: Yes, the Grammys are overrated and irrelevant, but it would’ve been nice to see his achievement commemorated.

After-afterthought: one of my favorite Kendrick joints:

Advertisements