Kendrick Lamar exploded on the scene in 2011 (some say before this) with his debut album section.80, from there his popularity skyrocketed. The next year Kendrick didn’t hold back and released his sophomore effort in “good kid m.A.A.d city” on Top Dawg Entertainment and Interscope Records. We knew that Kendrick Lamar was a talent but after dropping two straight knockouts could the TDE emcee honestly go three for three? We didn’t get an album for three years, but in 2015 Kendrick Lamar released “To Pimp A Butterfly”. The album came with many surprises, a sound we didn’t expect and it ended up taking the world by storm in more ways than one. Last week the album celebrated its 2-year anniversary, that being said here are 5 Fast Facts on Kendrick Lamar’s third classic “To Pimp A Butterfly”.
1. The Impact of “I”
On September 23, 2014, Kendrick Lamar debuted “i” and a few months after that, he debuted the music video for track. At first the track was met with mixed reviews, some fans (myself included) were surprised at the new sound. Some immediately criticized Kendrick accusing him of selling out, for going a different direction and more.
More importantly though “i” actually gave Kendrick Lamar his first two Grammys, one for Best Rap Performance and his second for Best Rap Song. If we dig a bit deeper the impact of Kendrick Lamar’s “i” extended passed the radio and passed the accolades. In an interview with Hot97 Kendrick Lamar explained the true purpose of “i” and gave hints as to what “To Pimp A Butterfly” was going to be about: “I wrote a record for the homies that’s in the penitentiary right now, and I also wrote a record for these kids that come up to my shows with these slashes on they wrists, saying they don’t want to live no more,”.
2. Kendrick Lamar Won Six Grammys for ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’.
“To Pimp A Butterfly” was released on March 15th, 2015 and debuted at #1 in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. The album received critical acclaim getting a 96 out 100 on Metacritic. Also according to Metacritic TPAB was placed on 101 Top Ten album lists in 2015 and managed to snag 51 top spots on those lists. Kendrick Lamar was praised by mainstream and underground critics alike for making a masterpiece. Other critics have deemed the album an “instant classic”, even David Bowie’s last album “Blackstar” was influenced by Kendrick Lamar according to an interview Rolling Stone had with Tony Visconti (who helped David Bowie produce Blackstar).
However despite everything mentioned above Kendrick Lamar didn’t end up going home with a Grammy for Album of the Year but did manage to snag Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for “Alright” and lastly he won Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “These Walls”. Kendrick Lamar did get five awards from the BET Hip Hop Awards including Best Hip Hop Video, Lyricist of the Year and more.
3. ‘Alright’ became a Civil Rights Anthem for This Generation
One of the popular cuts off “To Pimp A Butterfly” was “Alright” not only did Lamar produce a powerful video but to some, the track became an anthem. To put this in perspective a bit Business Insider sat down with Lamar and talked to him about the record. To go even a step further they showed some of the moments of police brutality that occurred during the time, this included the deaths of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others. “I wanted to approach [‘Alright’] as more uplifting, but aggressive. Not playing the victim, but still having that ‘Yeah, we strong.” Kendrick told Business Insider.
In June Kendrick released the video for “Alright”. The video has Kendrick doing everything known to man, from flying to eventually being shot at the end of the video. DJ Booth’s Yoh dissected the entire video and came to the conclusion that like the rest of Kendrick’s videos, a bigger message was at play here. Regardless we saw “Alright” become an anthem for many protests including this one in Chicago. Yoh finished his critique of the video saying “There is no fear in Kendrick Lamar, and that’s why he’s currently got the video of the year crown”.
4. Kendrick Lamar Painted a Vivid Picture Through the “To Pimp A Butterfly” Videos”
Along with “Alright” Kendrick Lamar released videos for “i”, “King Kunta”, “These Walls”, “For Free” and the short video medley called “God Is Gangsta”.
“These Walls” featuring Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat
“God Is Gangsta”
5. Kendrick Released a Compilation Album of Unreleased Tracks From the TPAB Sessions.
Many expected Kendrick Lamar to take a break after the release of “To Pimp A Butterfly”. Instead in March of 2016 we got “untitled.unmastered” a compilation album of b-sides from the TPAB sessions. Some of these songs debuted while Kendrick Lamar was on the Late Night circuit. The Colbert Report, The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and lastly the Grammys all had Kendrick debuting a different track. At the time of those performances the existence of “untitled.unmastered” wasn’t known.
The album featured collaborations from Alicia Keys, Bilal, Adrian Younge, Anna Wise, Robert Glasper, Thundercat and more. A short album only eight tracks deep, Kendrick Lamar gained a Metacritic score of 86. Some were afraid the compilation wouldn’t get a proper release but the album was made available on vinyl in May. You can stream both “To Pimp A Buttefly” and “untitled.umastered” below.