In March, Jezebel published the very best and most immediately honest review of To Pimp a Butterfly, the album that Kendrick Lamar is now touring in his eight-city run of “Kunta's Groove Sessions.” Last night Lamar performed in New York.
You’ll recall that To Pimp a Butterfly leaked just 24 hours before its official release date, March 15, and that most major music websites published their reviews of the album within three days of the leak. On such an immediate deadline for filing a feature-length album review, it’s nearly impossible for a young critic to stunt. At Jezebel, Clover Hope just wrote the truth.
With bits of personal and political context interspersed, Hope framed her review as a first-take impression of the “overwhelming blackness” of an album about funk and self-destruction. “This initial feeling is suffocating,” Hope wrote. “It’s the essence of Dis Tew Much.”
I think most fans and critics would agree that Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly is, indeed, overwhelming. I reviewed To Pimp a Butterfly in about 72 hours. In that narrow band of time, I "got" the album's messages and themes but couldn’t grasp the motivations for the album’s sound. Why, in 2015, would a recently platinum-selling rapper make a jazz album with Lalah Hathaway, Ron Isley, and George Clinton?