By Joseph Rowan/LifeAtStart.com Reporter
Continuing the analysis of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, here is part 2.
Wesley’s Theory- The first song on the album is about pimping artists in the industry, as Kendrick explains it “First off, the lyrics is me going back to the feeling of what I wanted to do when I got signed. These are actually real thoughts…”.
For Free- For free is basically a spoken word poem that’s turned into a rap, Kendrick talks about sticking up to the man and how you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a girl to like you, and that living in poverty made him want to spend more money than he had. Now that he has money he doesn’t have that desire. He says “ I need 40 acres and a mule, not a forty ounce and a pitbull.” This is the second time he references 40 acres and a mule, which after a little research I found he was referencing the proposed reparations to former slaves after the Civil War.
King Kunta- Named after the the main character Kunta Kinte in the novel Roots. First off, the name of the song is an oxymoron, because Kendrick is oppressed like a slave and dominant like a king. He references the novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison with the line “The yam is the power that be, You can smell it when I’m walking down the street.” In the novel the main character smells yams in the streets of New York and it reminds him of his childhood in the South. He raps about being on top of the game and how he was going to kill the careers of some rappers, but instead their poor record sales did that to them.
Institutionalized- This song is about wealth’s corruptive powers and how people are basically brainwashed by the idea of becoming wealthy. The song is really a coming of age story about a kid who has found his talents, aka becoming a butterfly, and how he has left Compton. He explains the kid as being “dazed and confused, talented but still under the neighborhood ruse”. He also enforces the idea that nothing will change unless you make the change.
These Walls- Kendrick says “If these walls could talk,” which means no one knows what happens behind closed doors, however if the walls could talk, they would tell you what the person said. The song is mostly about Kendrick Lamar’s girlfriend who killed his friend. He also uses references to the female anatomy, sex in general, and how sexual intercourse is a huge topic in rap.
u- This is the opposite of his upbeat song I, while that song talks about self worth, u, talks about Kendrick Lamar’s depression and how he was trying to find himself. In this song, Kendrick’s confidence is at an all time low and he is feeling very fragile. Kendrick says “But you ain’t sh*t, I’m convinced your tolerance nothin’ special,” which is a reference to his self depreciation. He also talks about his sister who became pregnant as a teen and how he started off making music for other people. The song also talks about how he blames himself for his family leaving and escaping the dangers of Compton.
Alright- This song addresses religion, and how we use the idea of God in different ways and in various situations. He talks about the music industry only wanting him for economic reasons and not for his music or influence. Kendrick says he loves his Mom but he doesn’t know if she forgives him for giving into his vices. Drugs, alcohol, and women are his vices and he says they only give him a temporary bliss. Kendrick addresses the police brutality happening in America, saying “ We hate po-po, wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho.” He also uses the phrase “40 acres and a mule” once again.
For Sale? (interlude)- In this song, Kendrick talks about being tempted by the Devil. He uses the word ‘Lucy’ as an analogy for the Devil, and this song is about escaping the temptations of Lucy. Lucy also embodies the negatives of hip hop and the material possessions rappers want to have. Lucy wants Kendrick’s soul in exchange to put money in his pocket (aka selling his soul to the Devil, for fame and fortune). At the end of the song, Lucy’s voice goes from being a sweet voice, to a gritty devilish voice as Kendrick avoids the temptations.
Momma- In the beginning of the song, Kendrick mentions self discovery and euphoria with the lyrics “This feelin’ is unmatched, this feeling is brought to you by adrenaline and good rap.” Kendrick also raps about being on the top, because he is at a high point in his life and how being a rapper has brought him closer to his roots.
Hood Politics- The song starts of with a voicemail from one of Kendrick’s friends from Compton. In this voicemail, the caller fears that Kendrick has changed now that he is a successful rapper. Kendrick raps about being better than all the others, and how he doesn’t care about useless fights between rappers. He talks about staying true to his ways and how he doesn’t want to change because of his success. The song also talks about when he was a child and how he didn’t have the same knowledge that he has now.
How Much Does a Dollar Cost- The premise of this song is Kendrick Lamar is pumping gas, seeing a homeless man, and realizing this homeless man is God. The homeless man asks Kendrick for some money and Kendrick denies believing the man is a crack addict. The song is heavily focused on religion, he even references Exodus 14 and how the only thing Kendrick would consider “priceless” is a spot in Heaven.
Look for part three, which is coming soon.
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