Hip-hop has always involved some sort of braggadocio. Take spotlight-stealer Kanye West, for example. Yep, being an asshole is one way to do it. The other way is the "put up or shut up" method. Compton's Kendrick Lamar released a stellar album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, in 2012, but many felt his guest spot on Big Sean's 2013 track "Control" pushed a few too many buttons when he claimed to be one of the greatest rappers, vowed to "murder" the new generation and called himself the "King of New York." Love it or hate it, people took notice.
With the release of To Pimp a Butterfly, Lamar is throwing the gauntlet again, setting himself apart from countless other names in the rap game and pushing toward the top of the heap. It's a satisfying blend of funk, soul and rap. It's Parliament meets Outkast meets Tupac. The musical styles are as diverse as his flows — from spoken word to singing, smooth to angered.
Lyrically, Butterfly is loaded with plenty of political ammunition — keep an ear out for the "Democrips" and "Rebloodicans" on the track "Hood Politics" — while musically lifted thanks to intricate rhythms and backing tracks that go far beyond simple beats.
The 16 tracks clock in at more than an hour, and if the music wasn't enough, it ends with an "interview" of sorts between Kendrick and Tupac. It's only March, but it's hard to imagine To Pimp a Butterfly not topping countless Best of lists come December. You're going to keep spinning this one for a while.