The Creation of “To Pimp a Butterfly”

The Creation of To Pimp a Butterfly

Rapper Kendrick Lamar’s 3rd studio album, To Pimp a Butterfly, is widely considered one of hip-hop’s most culturally significant projects. It is an LP dealing with heavy topics that affect the African-American community, such as racism, oppression, materialism, and the struggle to love oneself. To Pimp a Butterfly is filled to the brim with symbolism, with even the title representing the pimping of something as beautiful and free as a butterfly.  

To fully understand the meaning of this album, we must look into its background. In February of 2015, Lamar announced plans to release To Pimp a Butterfly. To receive inspiration for this project, he traveled to South Africa and visited several historical sites like Nelson Mandela’s former cell. This visit would lead to Lamar being significantly impacted by the culture, even basing the entire album on his journey. When asked about the trip, Lamar said, “I felt like I belonged in Africa. I saw all the things that I wasn’t taught. One of the hardest things to do is put [together] a concept of how beautiful a place can be and tell a person this while they’re still in the ghettos of Compton. I wanted to put that experience in the music.” 

When the time came to start working on the album, Lamar called several producers and lyricists to assist him with the quality of music as well as helping him get his message across to a broader audience. Artists such as Flying Lotus, Pharell Williams, and 9th Wonder were Lamar’s primary collaborators on To Pimp a Butterfly. Lamar and collaborators ensured this LP featured substantial aspects of soul and jazz. 

After over three years of working on this album, it was finally ready to be released to the public. To Pimp a Butterfly was a significant success, with several tracks becoming instant hits and classics; these have passed the test of time, such as The Blacker the Berry, which speaks on being proud to be black no matter the stereotypes, and Alright, which weighs heavy on the mistreatment of African Americans by the police. 

Without To Pimp a Butterfly, created by the genius Kendrick Lamar, hip-hop would be on a much different course than it is today. It consists of clever metaphors touching heavy topics affecting the black community, soul and jazz samples, and above all, heart. Kendrick Lamar’s LP To Pimp a Butterfly is the greatest modern hip-hop album of all time and is an essential listen for anyone who calls themself a rap enthusiast.

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