Music: Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly

The Hip-Hop Artist’s New Album Turns Anger into Beauty

Anger becomes Kendrick Lamar; it’s an urgent anger, and it makes his CD beautiful. Certainly you could trace a complicated narrative, a symbolic web through To Pimp a Butterfly, cueing off the poem Lamar recites line by line between tracks. But the most satisfying moments arrive in “King Kunta,” where the narrator balances between bragging on his rap mastery, some artfully displaced castration anxiety, and a simmering resentment that goes beyond all the topics of the song. In “Alright,” a similar voice catalogs daily horrors, describing himself “at the preacher’s door” with weakening knees, and adds in a plain, lucid voice: “… and we hate po po / Wanna kill us dead in the street for sure.” The whole album, lush and cutting, leans heavily on jazz but also draws influence from a mighty well of electronic pop like Radiohead. Pimp is filled with a ruthless yet structured voice, assurance torn by facts. It’s a sophisticated, hard picture of now.


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