Dakota Crawford is a senior journalism and telecommunications major and writes ‘Full-Court Press’ for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. Write to Dakota at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kendrick Lamar dropped his new album "To Pimp A Butterfly" Sunday night, a full week ahead of its scheduled release date. This is an emotional album. It's raw and unbridled by pretty much any real structure on any of the tracks. I love all of it, and I'm sure you will too.
Unless, of course, you're looking for an album packed with Kendrick bangers like "Swimming Pools" and "Backseat Freestyle." You're not going to find that here. What you will find is the best hip-hop album in years — and, big surprise, it's not because of amped up beats and empty features.
Here are my thoughts, track by track. Please share yours in the comment section. This album is worth talking about.
1. "Wesley's Theory" - Seriously, this sets the tone so well. If you aren't into the opening sample and synth-funk bass line, then stop now and save yourself from wasting the next hour of your life. Lamar hits on a lot here, primarily his issues with the top-heavy economic system and consumerism.
Lyric worth noting: "Don't have receipts, (oh man, that's fine) / Pay me later, wear those gators."
2. "For free?" - This track opens with a female voice complaining that "you ain't even buy me no outfit for the fourth." More focus on society's emphasis on the need for spending on material things. Lamar's voice completely drives this track that's laid over some really jazzy piano and raw drums.
Lyric worth noting: "Oh, America, you bad bitch, I picked the cotton that made you rich."
3. "King Kunta" - Lamar turns his attention to the rap game in this track. It's the most heavy bass line to this point, but still feels kind of funky. Either way, he's really just making everybody else look bad for sharing their lines. Where is the creativity? Apparently, it's in jail.
Lyric worth noting: "I swore I wouldn't tell. But most of y'all share bars, like you got the bottom bunk in a two-man cell."
4. "Institutionalized" - This track is just cool. In the first verse, Lamar is talking about his relationship with old friends, how he takes care of them now that he's got money. But in the second verse, he's rapping from the perspective of one of his "homies" at the BET Awards.
Lyric worth noting: "Now I can watch his watch on the TV and be OK. But see, I'm on the clock once that watch landin' in L.A. Remember steal from the rich and givin' it back to the poor? Well that's me at these awards."
5. "These Walls" - Another great hook from Anna Wise on this track. It's more of the soul that's made the album so easy to listen to up to this point. Lamar talks about his depression and how sex has been an outlet for him — one that maybe does more harm than good.
Lyric worth noting: "Walls feeling like they ready to close in. I suffocate then catch my second wind."
6. "u" - More depression and drinking in this song. Kendrick acknowledges that he's got some skeletons in his closet, and alcohol is another outlet for him. His emotion, again, is the driver instead of the music.
Lyric worth noting: "Faults breaking to pieces, earthquakes on every weekend. Because you shook as soon as you knew confinement was needed."
7. "Alright" - What?
Lamar brings in even more symbolism and references everything from his self-conscious to alcohol and maybe the devil. Lamar says "Lucy" is his dog, and gives him money and cars. Some folks over at RapGenius seem to think "Lucy" might be referencing the devil, Lucifer. I'm interested in that idea, too.
Lyric worth noting: "I can see the evil. I can tell when it's illegal. I don't think about it, I deposit every other zero."
8. "For Sale?" - "Lucy" has a big presence in this song, too. The song opens with a synthesized voice saying "If you're scared, go to church. But remember, he knows the Bible too." By the way, pay attention to the outros on this album. He repeats the same lines on several occasions, but adds one or two more each time.
Lyric worth noting: [From the outro] "I didn't want to self destruct. The evils of Lucy was all around me. So I went running for answers. Until I came home."
9. "Momma" - This one is all about coming back home, as we heard the last track end. Lamar talks early in the song about how much he thought he knew. Then admits he had a big head before realizing he needed to come home.
Lyric to note: "I know everything. I know fatality might haunt you. I know everything, I know Compton."
10. "Hood Politics" - OK, so I hate it when Lamar says "boo boo" with negative connotation. To me, "boo boo" is the most precious of pet names for my girlfriend. But seriously, these verses are some of the most potent on the album.
Lyric to note: "Ain't nothing new but a flow of DemoCrips and ReBloodicans. Red State versus Blue State, which one you governing?"
11. "How Much A Dollar Cost" - OK, this one is cool. Lamar runs into a homeless man asking for money at a gas station. Lamar says no. One thing leads to another and the homeless man is God.
Lyric to note: "I'll tell you just how much a dollar cost. The price of having a spot in Heaven, embrace your loss. I am God."
12. "Complexion" - Kind of playing on the last song, Lamar notes that the homeless gas station God guy had a weird skin complexion. This song is saying that skin tone, eye color and hair style aren't important. Don't judge a book by it's cover, eh?
Lyric to note: "The new James Bond going to be black as me. Black as brown, hazelnut, cinnamon, black tea, and it's all beautiful to me."
13. "The Blacker the Berry" - You already know. This song was out weeks ago, and we all heard it. As a matter of fact, if you like this song but don't play the rest of this album, then you are the biggest hypocrite of 2015. This track still has some of the most fierce lyrics on the album. I still love it.
Lyric to note: "This plot is bigger than me, it's generational hatred. It's genocism, it's grimy, little justification. I'm African-American, I'm African."
14. "You Ain't Gotta Lie" - No need to impress Lamar. He's basically saying here not to put on a face that isn't genuine. Throughout the song, he talks about how people bring up reputation and money to fit in with those around them.
Lyric to note: "And the girls going to neglect you once your parody is done. Reputation can't protect you if you never had one."
15. "I" - Yo. This song is about three times better than the single that came out a while back. It's less produced and more Lamar just owning that catchy radio hook. It's less crazy and more live. But the new outro is the best part. Lamar is, by far, the realest Negus alive.
Lyric to note: "The history books overlooked the word and hide it. American tried to make it to a house divided. The homies don't recognize we be using it wrong."
16. "Mortal Man" - Lamar was taking us all on a journey with this album and the outro brings it all home. Much like he speaks of going back to Compton, this track brings everything he's talked about for the last hour home and gives it context. I could spoil it for your further, but I won't.
Go listen to all 12:07 of this for yourself and, surely, you'll agree, this is best hip-hop album out in a long time.