To Pimp a Butterfly Breakdown
To Pimp a Butterfly Breakdown
What can be said about this album that has not been said already? From the first track “Wesley’s Theory” to “Mortal Man” Kendrick Lamar has dropped a hip hop masterpiece. The first track is an ode to Wesley Snipes, for better or worse, which avoided taxes and served a three year bid for it. The song’s second verse is told from the perspective of Uncle Sam who is worse than your Uncle Tom. For K.Dot Uncle Sam is the worst pimp you’ll ever meet. He reminds America that this “dick ain’t free” in “For Free?” (Interlude). It is said in a way that makes you chuckle but everything said is true, “I need 40 acres and a mule not a 40 oz and a pitbull”.
Understanding this train of thought he gives a big middle finger to the system as he becomes a king in “King Kunta”. But the dichotomy of becoming a king is everyone wants to be your friend and all in your face. Hence the question, “Where was you when I was walkin?” The truth of his rise as a prominent rapper then is challenged as he still feels for his old hood in Compton. “Institutionalized” and “These Walls” are the biggest distractions that Kendrick feels keep you a slave money and women. In “Institutionalized” he refers to himself as a walking lick and the homies are prisoners to the problems he just escaped. “These Walls” is connected to “Sing about Me” on Kendricks prior album “G.o.o.d. K.i.d. M.a.a.d. C.i.t.y” as he sleeps with the baby mama of the man that killed his homie while he is in jail. He uses his fame to exploit her however. Thought-out all of this we have Kendrick narrating in a way with a poem that at this point says, “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.”
“U” finds the Compton emcee in a hotel contemplating suicide as the pressures have gotten to him. Talking to himself and excessively drinking but it isn’t until he finds God in himself does he get the confidence to fight these demons and his vices in “Alright”. He meets Lucy, who like Uncle Sam, tries to lure you in this false sense of security by telling you she is going to give you everything you want and need which is not true at all. But Lucy is defeated and in doing so Kendrick gets back to his roots by returning home in “Momma”. His home is perhaps both Compton and the motherland of Africa as there are lines that give the idea of both.
“Hood Politics” Kendrick giving us the view of when he was a child and didn’t have the information he has now. Each verse details the politics played in hip hop and government. Even has time to shed light on how his “Control” verse ‘fucked up the game’. “How Much Does A Dollar Really Cost”, “Complexion” and “The Blacker The Berry” see the butterfly begin to emerge. Questioning the value of money and skin tone being a real factor in how we treat people. The evils of Lucy and Uncle Sam no longer can affect Kendrick. “The Blacker The Berry” allows for him to vent his frustrations of this system that he know truly knows all about as not falling victim to it. It also allows him to voice the hypocrisies in our own communities as each verse begins, “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015,Once I finish this, witnesses will convey just what I mean”.
“You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said) acts as the wisdom that he gained from “Momma” and ode to rappers and the kids in the hoods to be themselves, “Askin’ “where the hoes at?” to impress me, Askin’ “where the moneybags?” to impress me, Say you got the burner stashed to impress me, It’s all in your head, homie”. “i” is the ultimate celebration song, you can be in the darkest room and indulging in your own vices but once you love yourself first, than all those evils of Lucy and Uncle Sam are not as appealing as you can see how it can be self-destructive. In his acapella verse Kendrick is preforming this in front of a live audience, either being the hood he has gone back to or even just the listener as he breaks down a word that has been used to promote self-derogation, nigger.
I promised Dave I’d never use the phrase “fuck nigga”/He said “think about what you saying: ‘Fuck niggas'”/No better than Samuel on Django/No better than a white man with slave boats/Sound like I needed some soul searching/My pops gave me some game in real person/Retrace my steps on what they never taught me/Did my home work fast before government caught me/So I’mma dedicate this one verse to Oprah/On how the infamous, sensitive N-word control us/So many artist gave her an explanation to hold us/Well this is my explanation straight from Ethiopia/N-E-G-U-S definition: royalty; King royalty – wait listen/N-E-G-U-S description: Black emperor, King, ruler, now let me finish/The history books overlooked the word and hide it/America tried to make it to a house divided/The homies don’t recognize we be using it wrong/So I’mma break it down and put my game in the song/N-E-G-U-S, say it with me/Or say no more. Black stars can come and get me/Take it from Oprah Winfrey, tell her she right on time/Kendrick Lamar, by far, realest Negus alive”.
“Mortal Man” is the last song on the album that allows Kendrick to draw parallels with the late Nelson Mandela. Asking his fans will they remain loyal to him, “See I got to question it all, family, friends, fans, cats, dogs/Trees, plants, grass, how the wind blow/Murphy’s Law, generation X, will I ever be your X?” With the bridge being, “When shit hits the fan will you still be a fan?” Ending with the poem that we were given pieces thought out the entire album only for the songs to fill in and give proper context. Which turns out he is reading this poem to 2pac. Asking his idol for answers and thoughts on the themes he presents on the album, only to end with Pac not responding. Thus it up to us to find answers to these problems now in which Kendrick believes loving each other creating a unity that the evils can no longer break. The butterfly and caterpillar are one in the same, but the butterfly is what America sees as beautiful and therefore pimps it to its advantage thus there is a resentment between the two. The two are essential to their respective lives and according to K.Dot they need to acknowledge and see this.