New Classics #1
The definition of “Classic music” is timeless music. Music that quality never depreciates no matter how long ago it was released. The albums that set the bar for all of other albums that come after them. Albums like Biggie’s ‘Ready 2 Die’, Pac’s ‘All Eyez on Me’, and ‘Reasonable Doubt’ by Jay-Z. This series ‘New Classics’ is a look into the more recent Classic albums that were released. We gonna kick it off with one of my All-Time favorite bodies of work, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ by Kendrick Lamar.
What Kendrick was able to do on ‘TPaB’ was so ahead of schedule that a lot of consumers couldn’t even process exactly what was going on. I think before this album was released in 2015 the consensus of music fans weren’t really ready for the portrait Kendrick was drawing up for us. What makes ‘TPaB’ classics is you can put it in any era of Hip Hop and it’ll resonate. Why? Because it speaks on issues we are dealing with now and have been dealing with forever.
I think my favorite aspect of ‘TPaB’ is the production. Not many artists are able to utilize the blend of Jazz and Hip Hop. And in 2015 not many has even attempted it. To have as many Elite producers with their own signatures on your album and your own signature never once waver is incredible. Terrace Martin made percussion cool with how he was tearing shit up. And with the time I’ve had to get to know ThunderCat I can distinguish his signature sound on the bass when I listen to the album now.
Colorism is a disease we‘ve been dealing with for ages and before this album it wasn't addressed by any prominent artists of our generation. What Kendrick and Rapsody was able to do on ‘Complexion (A Zulu Love)’ is beautiful. We participate in that game of discriminating against our own without even thinking about it because of programming. Rapsody’s verse made me go “gahd damn where is the push for her to be at the top of the game.” She raps leagues ahead too many rappers male or female for her to be the side note honorable mention.
‘Institutionalized’ is an amazing record about being able to physically get out of the hood but being trapped in that mind state. In the case of this song, he’s speaking on the guys that gets employed by him, that were used to living a certain way and couldn’t get it out of their system. “Shit don’t change till you get up and wash your ass.” I’ve always like that hook because it’s a dope way to say “you can change as soon as you decide to.”
Going back home to Africa was not really a thought I’ve ever had before I heard ‘Momma’. It seems like Kendrick had experienced something that every black man and woman should. When I heard the song for the first time there was like a warmth that covered me just from the thought of being surrounded by people that look like you and love you for being you. The idea of learning about my lost heritage was encapsulating. It’s definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.
‘Mortal Man’ is still one of my favorite songs ever. “When shit hits the fan, is you still a fan?” We sometimes throw people away too easily. I admit that even now I can’t really stomach the stuff that Kanye is doing. I’ve tried to stick around but I couldn’t. It’s crazy how in 2015, Kendrick released a record about this ‘Cancel Culture’ that’s really just kicked off in 2018. The foresight he’s had is uncanny and is exactly why he’s respected as one of the Greatest Artists to ever create.
‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ will always be an example of Greatness. No matter where you are from, who raised you, or how you are, this album will grab a hold of you. I remember being in FYE and an older dude asked me to recommend an album to him. I went straight to ‘TPaB’ and told him “this album bridges the gap between your era of music with the funk, jazz, freedom fighters influence and our own style of fighting with hip hop.” We talked for a little while about all types of music after that and he took that album, thanked me and left. I feel the aura that album gave off was one of importance and sooner or later the masses are gonna capture it.
I left out a lot of aspects and underlying themes of the album on purpos as to not spoil it completely for those who may have missed this album. I want to take a moment to thank Kendrick Lamar, Top Dawg, and everyone involved in the process of making this Monumental body of work. It’s been an amazing motivator and example of Excellence for me personally. I thank you and appreciate all of you.