A modern classic that is reshaping hip hop
Jazzy Hip Hop and Conscious
Kendrick Duckworth combined heavyweight musicians with fabulous jazz grooves for To Pimp A Butterfly and it paid back in full.
Kendrick Lamar throws everything but the kitchen sink into this album. Tales of life as a black man/people’s rapper fly at you through a haze of samples, keyboard flourishes and a searing honesty that more than once borders on the uncomfortable. The sound is leavened by jazz interludes and fluid bass lines but it's the textures of Lamar’s voice that take centre stage.
Sounding like Me’shell Ndegeocello on the opener Wesley’s Theory – he alerts us that his favourite appendage isn’t For Free? Before explaining that he’d shoot some rappers in King Kunta but they’ve already shot themselves in the moral two-by-four years ago.
He longs for Obama to remove the chains of those struggling in the neighbourhood in Institutionalized - and suddenly goes sweet and soulful with These Walls. He gives his complicated lover some lippy stick in U - and you can’t even keep up with the pep-talk stream of words in Alright.
The loverman kicks in for You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said), but neighbourhood politics are never far from the surface - permeating For Sale and How Much A Dollar Cost – tales of dreams busted and the law bearing down. And when the brown stuff hits the fan in Mortal Man – Lamar questions how many people would want him if the industry dropped him tomorrow?
This is a huge splurge of ideas, sounds, anger, hate and love for the common man. The fact that it sounds good as well is a real bonus.