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The Dissection of Kendrick Lamar | To Pimp A Butterfly

The Dissection of Kendrick Lamar

A Close Look At – To Pimp A Butterfly 

This album is gold. Honestly this piece can be, and most likely will be, studied in colleges. Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is his third studio album and is considered to be an instant classic. It sat at number 1 on the Billboard top 200, US Top hip-hop/R&B albums, UK charts, and many other high peaking positions across the world. TPAB also smashed Spotify’s streaming record twice! TPAB is the epitome of a great hip hop album. When people first listened they were turned off by the funkiness in the sound. It was something many, if not all of us were not used to… Kendrick brought back the musical legacy of jazz, blues, and funk mixed with a plethora of metaphors and basically a novel in a form of music. Since it was something new from what everyone was used to, it took a minute to really grasp the music and the message. But once it was grasped there was a mix of emotions. Listening to TPAB is an eye opener and it sends out an important message to not only black culture but to everyone and anyone. Kendrick shares what it was like for him, to be institutionalized by his own country- and eventually break free. Because this album is more like a Novel, making it quite complex to really understand,  I will try my best to break down and summarize the tracks and reveal to you what KDot’s message is as simply as can be.
The Caterpillar: The album begins with Kendrick Lamar before he was signed in Wesley’s Theory. On the track Kendrick says “When I get signed, homie imma act a fool
Hit the dance floor, strobe lights in the room[……..]
I’mma buy a brand new Caddy on fours”
And “When I get signed homie imma buy a strap
Straight from the CIA, set it on my lap
Take a few M-16s to the hood
Pass ’em all out on the block, what’s good?”
Meaning that he will become prisoner to the streets- like a caterpillar- by “acting a fool” and “buying that caddy”… K Dot also brings in other characters throughout the album and in this first track it is Uncle Sam. His character signifies America of course, and how America pimps the butterfly so in Kendrick’s second verse he raps it in Uncle Sam’s point of view..”What you want you? A house or a car? Forty acres and a mule, a piano, a guitar?” ( This here, is how Kendrick shows that getting signed you become a prisoner to all of these type of things! Just like a caterpillar becomes a prisoner to its surroundings)
In the next track, For Free (Interlude) Kendrick continues and speaks upon slavery… He uses the metaphor of a relationship with a man and his woman  to suggest how America’s system pimped out black people. “Oh America, you bad bitch, I picked cotton that made you rich
Now my dick ain’t free”
Black people are only used and get “pimped” but  they don’t get equal freedom or choice.
This track is followed up by King Kunta in which Kendrick talks about “running the game” and being the “motherfucking King”…though he’s still oppressed- which is clever how he used King Kinte as a metaphor. King Kinte was a plantation worker whose leg was cut off so that he won’t escape slavery. Meaning, Kendrick is oppressed but is still a King. He’s a wealthy,  successful black man in America but he’s running away from where he is originally from. At the end of this track he also says “(By the time you hear the next pop, the funk shall be within you)” and the outro is “we want the funk” “now if I give you the funk you gon take it”- basically stating that this will be taken back to the Jazz and funk era, the which will go with his next track Institutionalized,signaling that Americans lost touch with their musical heritage. Kendrick’s last line in this track builds up to the story line. “I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence “
The cocoon: Kendrick is already pimped. In  Institutionalized Kendrick mentions how he’s still trapped in the ghetto mentality and shares all the examples on how America institutionalizes not only him but society as a whole.
In These Walls,  the intro adds to the storyline “I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence
Sometimes, I did the same” and on this track  Kendrick is trapped in his thoughts and he begins to question everything- using himself and the relationship he has with a woman. The outro adds to the storyline “I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power, full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screaming in a hotel room”
The next track is where we see how serious Kendrick’s depression was. We see how being pimped out in his cocoon effected him and how much doubt it put him through. All the power he had but he didn’t use it the right way….We hear him talk about “Where is the influence you speak of?”, stating that although he can “rap in front of 100,000”, he wasn’t able to be a big enough influence in his little sister’s life. (She got pregnant at 16.)  While he was away, a friend died too. Kendrick “facetimed” him instead of “a hospital visit” and believes his own “trials and tribulations are a burden on everyone else”. This is where Kendrick loses hope and we hear him contemplating suicide towards the ending. Very emotional track.
On Alright, the following track, Kendrick says that as long as he’s got God everything will be alright. Kendrick also introduces “Lucy” AKA the devil. He does this because he shows us how once he tries to get right with God, the devil begins to tempt him and ,which explains the next track For Sale. The outro for Alright adds to the storyline I remembered you was conflicted
Misusing your influence, sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screamin’ in the hotel room
I didn’t wanna self destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went runnin’ for answers”
On For Sale Kendrick raps about all the temptations Lucifer has brought upon him. The outro adds” I remembered you was conflicted
Misusing your influence, sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screamin’ in the hotel room
I didn’t wanna self destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went runnin’ for answers
Until I came home” 
Taking it back home: On Momma Kendrick comes back home and explains what he has learned only to realize that he doesn’t know shit. On Hood Politics We hear his homeboy from back home trying to call him, on his first verse he says that he doesn’t give a fuck about rap politics anymore when he’s losing homies at home. He should always go hard when he raps but keep it true.
Outro: “I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screaming in a hotel room
I didn’t want to self-destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went running for answers
Until I came home
But that didn’t stop survivors guilt
Going back and forth
Trying to convince myself the stripes I earned
Or maybe how A-1 my foundation was
But while my loved ones was fighting
A continuous war back in the city
I was entering a new one” 
Finally Kendrick finds God again. On How Much a Dollar Cost Kendrick explains that if he stays pimped out he will never reach his full potential. God tells him that he won’t reach that if he is greedy to the people in his hometown. Everything he needs to know- time to break away from all the temptations of Lucy and Uncle Sam.
Breaking out of the cocoon: Kendrick has learned from everything. He has obtained the knowledge to move forward and now impact others. On Complexion Kendrick wants to unite everyone (stand against racism)and prevent others from being pimped out.
On Blacker the Berry Kendrick shows his pride in being black. He also shows how the pimpification of Americas society made his people be hypocritical.. “So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?
When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me?
Hypocrite!”
With the cover art for this track + the message in his lyrics he implies that he wants everyone to teach those of tomorrow.
On the next track You ain’t Gotta Lie(Momma Said) Kendrick explains that possessions don’t give you power. Confidence and realness do. Stay true to yourself.
Kendrick breaks free: he is now a butterfly. 
With I. This is the happiest song of the entire album and is when the story basically ends. Kendrick shows how he’s overcome all the temptations and pimping.. He does a live version of the song ending with breaking up  a fight in the crowd and explaining the real meaning of Nigga, Negus.. Genius.
CONCLUSION: Mortal man is the summary of this album.  He questions us- his generation- “when shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?” He wants those who are real to him to ride with him even though he’s made those mistakes. He uses Nelson Mandela as an example of how he wants to be honored and remembered. He really wants his music and his messages to live forever, so clearly he wants this album to touch people. It means so much. He ends it with an interview with Tupac and opens up the eyes of the listener. Kendrick’s message for everyone is: love yourself, respect those around you and don’t forget where you come from.  He conveys this message through his own personal story but can be applied to us all.
By: @evelyngromo on Instagram, Twitter, facebook!
Thank you for reading.
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