Column: 8 years of ‘TPAB’: How Kendrick Lamar shaped the future of hip-hop

Ayron Rutan, Staff Writer

In the world of hip-hop, it can be extremely risky for mainstream artists to experiment with different genres, provocative themes and controversial subject matter. For many artists, moving away from popular convention only causes demonization from fans resulting in the artist’s collective demise. But for Kenrick Lamar, the exploration of jazz, race and politics created one of the most powerful and important albums of the 21st century.

Released in 2015, “To Pimp a Butterfly” is an album that has been hailed as a masterpiece of modern hip-hop by fans and critics alike. The third studio album in Lamar’s discography, it has received critical acclaim for its thought-provoking lyrics, musicality and social commentary. The record just recently celebrated its eighth birthday, and its power has truly stood the test of time. In 2016, the album garnered 11 Grammy nomination with four wins.

The album is a reflection of Lamar’s experiences growing up in Compton, California, and his observations of contemporary Black culture in the United States. It addresses themes of systemic racism, poverty and police brutality. Lamar skillfully uses his music as a platform to highlight social injustice and racial inequality.

The album opens with the track “Wesley’s Theory,” a funky and rhythmic song that addresses issues of power and money. Lines like “What you want you?/A house or a car?/Forty acres and a mule, a piano, a guitar?/Anythin’, see, my name is Uncle Sam, I’m your dog” refer to the reparations proposed to newly freed slaves after the Civil War, which feeds the song’s theme of the struggle for economic growth. This track sets the tone for the rest of the album, which features a mix of jazz, funk, and soul elements that give the album a unique and distinctive sound.

“To Pimp a Butterfly” also features guest appearances from a range of artists, including George Clinton, Snoop Dogg and Bilal. Lamar even throws a bone to underrated female rapper Rapsody, who’s bars on the track “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” address the issue of colorism in the African American community. The album’s collaborations add to its diverse sound and showcase Lamar’s ability to work with other artists to create powerful and impactful music.

Standout tracks on the album include “Alright,” a politically charged anthem that has become a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. The song’s chorus, “We gon’ be alright,” has become an anthem for the fight against police brutality and systemic racism.

Another standout track is “King Kunta,” a song that references the African roots of Black culture and addresses issues of Black identity and pride. The track’s upbeat rhythm and catchy lyrics make it a standout song on the album.

Overall, “To Pimp a Butterfly” is a powerful and impactful album that addresses important social issues through the lens of modern hip-hop music. Lamar’s unique style and ability to weave together different musical influences create a sound that is both innovative and timeless. It is an album that deserves a place in any serious hip-hop fan’s collection.