Everybody knows the story of David and Goliath*, but Kendrick Lamar is back, bewitching the internet this very day, with his sudden release into the stratosphere. Following up from the groundbreaking ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ has landed somewhat ferociously. Even if this man is only known on your musical radar for the immense, party belter, ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’, Lamar owns bragging rights to being one of the most influential rappers of the here and now. His tenacity and courageous nature through adversity earn him serious credibility, at the very least; for me, his unapologetic flair for rapping some of the toughest, most hard-hitting verses is what’s noteworthy. The last thing hip-hop culture needs is some new bloke draped in chains with dreadlocks from Brooklyn, rapping about nothing but marijuana and ladies with large backsides and acrylic talons.
The characterful ‘i’ is nothing but jazzy and teeming with soul, married idyllically with Lamar’s gruff voice; if you aren’t compelled to get on your feet and dance to even the most sophisticated samba elements, you aren’t listening properly. With assistance from Flying Lotus and Thundercat, the album crashes open with ‘Wesley’s Theory’, which is just pure funk. The more intrinsically rap-orientated offering, aptly titled ‘Hood Politics’, samples a little Sufjan Stevens, peppering the track with that bit more edge and charisma.
If that isn’t enough, the album is packed full of conviction and seamless groove overlays, tempting those less interested in bolshy rap to get involved with all of the whispers about the sheer talent of the 27-year-old. I for one think this guy has incredible determination, but he’s also making hip-hop more accessible to those open to mixed-genre music, which is almost exactly what Lamar’s bequeathing his audience.
This is definitely the one to grab this week; what an excellent, tirelessly diverse comeback.
If you only download one track, let it be: ‘King Kunta’
*[The Amazing Spider-Man 2 only benefited from Kendrick Lamar’s collaboration with the wonderful Alicia Keys – if you somehow snoozed through 2014, see the film, buy the soundtrack]