Review #19: To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar

Karla Clifton
3 min readJan 23, 2021

#19: To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar

Another album I was pretty familiar with before listening to it on this journey down Rolling Stone’s list. Also the most recent one yet, released in 2015.

I became acquainted with To Pimp a Butterfly soon after I turned 23. I had just moved out for the first time, and was working a night shift, living in an apartment by myself. I usually went running right before I went to bed, and would sometimes drive to a nearby lake. I would listen to this album as I drove to the lake, then would listen to Mitski’s “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” on repeat while I ran. It’s weird to be 23. Nobody likes you.

In my unqualified, overly-confident opinion, Kendrick is the smartest rapper we’ve had so far — I’m getting ahead of myself but his verse on Beyonce’s “Freedom” is one of Lemonade’s (#32) coolest features.


“Wesley’s Theory” — So trippy and aggressive.

“For Free? — Interlude” — Kendrick’s interludes aren’t really interludes, as they’re mostly three minutes long. This one, for example, is freeform jazz with an explicit skit and spoken word poem over it.

“King Kunta” — My favorite by far — the effects on these background singers’ vocals are wild. When that guitar kicks in, oh man.

“Institutionalized” — Kendrick Lamar is fearless and confrontational and amazing. I had no idea Snoop Dogg was on this!

“These Walls” — Took me an embarrassingly long time to realize what this song is about, especially because someone just says the word SEX at the beginning. I love the chimes in this, though.

“u” — This song really affects me for some reason. Very relatable when you’re 23. The way his voice warbles in the second half of this song rips me in half.

“Alright” — The repetitive poetry at the end of all these songs are so powerful, also. I remember being shocked that this wasn’t the album that won Lamar the Pulitzer Prize.

“For Sale? — Interlude” — Hahaha this one makes me laugh. I thought you was keeping it gangster? I love that he calls Satan “Lucy.”

“How Much A Dollar Cost” — I would love to see a stage interpretation of this album, a la Tommy or American Idiot.

“The Blacker The Berry” — Kendrick Lamar, I believe all your hype.

“You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said)” — See, this one would make such a good denouement song in a musical! You ain’t gotta lie to kick it…you ain’t gotta try so hard. Someone write, fund, and produce this for me.

“i” — I LOVE this song, I love Kendrick Lamar, and I love myself.

“Mortal Man” — Okay, I listened to this on the road and I had NO idea that Kendrick was fake-interviewing Tupac from beyond the grave on this. It was more powerful when I listened to it the second time. Here’s the original interview, if you’re interested.


“Hood Politics” — This one grates on me for some reason. Is he repeatedly saying “boo boo?”


No way! I kind of think this should be higher, but I’m also biased because I think of that lake I used to run around every time I hear it, so we’ll accept it for where it is.

Review #18: Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan

Review #20: Kid A, Radiohead