6 Thoughts After Hearing Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp A Butterfly' For The First Time

The VIBE staff listened to the album and gave their initial thoughts. 

Kendrick Lamar made this past Sunday night and Monday seem like one long day. While most of the VIBE staff was preparing to unwind and prepare for the start of a new week, K. Dot dropped his To Pimp A Butterfly album on us without warning. After the initial shock wore off, we gave the album an honest listen and spilled our initial thoughts onto this page.

Read The ‘Butterfly’ Poem That Kendrick Lamar Wanted Tupac To Hear

The album is glorious. Not in a Good Kid Maad City way either. In a 70s Black Panther soundtrack, funk sensation way. The way a West Coast militant/poet/street disciple's music should sound. I'm not sure if every young listener will have the patience to sift through the rhyme schemes and deep cultural meanings of Kendrick's words and flows right away. And, the music itself might not be what they're currently grooving with ... or maybe I might be under estimating the youth [Laughs]. I hope I am.

-- Datwon Thomas, Editor-In-Chief.

To Pimp A Butterfly fully cusps the mood of funk to jazz, and cleverly involves those gatekeepers of the genre from George Clinton to Ronald Isley to Bilal. Lamar cements the bridge between the stories of his dear Compton with the social issues that still plague our communities today -- led by the double bass, horns, a little bit of scat, and just darn good wordplay.

Lamar does indeed "know everything" given his refreshing knowledge of the aforementioned genres and the young producers who helped him to carry out his lyrical vision. But one thing is for sure, "By the time you hear the next pop, the funk shall be within you."

-- Camille Augustin, Staff Writer

After watching his journey from section.80 to the Twitter discussion that is To Pimp A Butterfly, we've learned that Kendrick Lamar's very existence in hip hop is polarizing. If you pressed play on the meaty LP looking for a repeat of his magnum opus good kid, M.A.A.D. city, just stop listening. You won't be fulfilled. Comparing it to his previous work is an insult to the new aural experience that comes with it. TPAB is a pleasant and necessary step backwards on music's timeline, pushing jazz, '70s funk and spoken word vibes verses through the pressure-bottled-up flow we've married to his image since Oct. 22, 2012.

Of course, K.Dot is a lyrical beast on this. That's part of his DNA at this point. But more impressive than his woven words is his use of rich, surround sound instrumentation. Notes that sound like colors, melodies that feel like emotions. Dot's aiming to engage all the senses with this one and help us dive deeply into the hushed feelings he's been harboring in the back of his mind and heart for these three years.

-- Stacy-Ann Ellis, Staff Writer

20 Years after Tupac released one of his most retrospective albums to date, Me Against The World, another solider of the same struggle dropped a body of work that carries that same spirit as that very LP.

Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly sounds like K.Dot completely ignored everything happening in popular music right now and made a small incision in his heart. While the blood was spewing like a faucet from his white tee, the Compton kid somehow let the honesty spill over the 16-tracks on the album.

Fans should be more thankful here. For the first time, the prophet has invited every listener to take an unchaperoned tour of his working mind and body.

-- Mikey Fresh, Music Editor

This might seem like small potatoes to some, but I have long maintained an album's sequencing is just as important as what tracks actually make the album. And while Good Kid breathed new air into hip-hop and proved the kid from Compton far surpassed his rap peers, I sometimes felt certain tracks weren't in the right order. (It's an unpopular opinion I know, but please don't stone me for it)

However, To Pimp A Butterfly, with all its horns, spoken word, 70s Black Exploitation flare, and other complex concepts and nuances that make being a person of color in America such an experience, possesses a fluidity first seen on Section.80 that I don't think was fully tapped into on Good Kid. But enough putting Kendrick against Kendrick.

To Pimp A Butterfly is full of complication, and at times anger. Kendrick is King Kunta and at the same time drowning his sorrows in a bottle of liquor in a hotel room.  He wonders why with all the fame he's been able to positively impact his fans, he couldn't protect those closest to him. K. Dot is the kid who loves himself, but battles depression and suicidal thoughts. He travels to Africa to visit Nelson Mandela's cell but admits to lacking empathy and admittedly holds grudges. All of these contradicting emotions backed by funk, jazz, and free flowing horns is the perfect description of a man trying to be better than what he's seen. It's a beautiful, frustrating struggle.

To Pimp A Butterfly is complex and so is life and if life were to ever make sense, it makes sense on this body of work.

-- Shenequa Golding, Contributing Writer

If millennials are searching for a way to connect to Kendrick Lamar on his most radical body of work yet, their parents may be a great source of context. Channeling the “you kids don’t know nothin’ about this” vibes of your elders’ musical tastes, K. Dot adds a new-age activism to the storied tale of being black in America. Juxtaposing pertinent history references with conflicted, ferocious bars of frustration and pride, To Pimp A Butterfly spins like a passion project churned from the Compton MC’s very soul -- almost without anything to prove or gain.

--Iyana Robertson, News Editor.

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Kelly Rowland Drops 'K' EP And "Flowers" Music Video

This is a Kelly Rowland appreciation post. We repeat: This is a Kelly Rowland appreciation post. Better yet, nah. we'll just save it for the day she releases a new studio album. Y'all are not ready. For now, let's rejoice in the fact that Ms. Kelly dropped a new EP, titled K, to hold fans over.

Weeks after birthing her second son, Noah and days after celebrating her 40th birthday, Ms. Kelly is back with a short and sweet, 6-track project under her independent label KTR Records and new management family, Roc Nation. A mixture of new and previously released tunes, the extended play opens with "Flowers" produced by NEZ, before going into Afrobeats-infused songs like "Black Magic" and "Hitman," produced by Sak Pase and Oak, respectively.

"There's definitely a piece of my marriage on there [the K EP]. I mean just relationships, period," explained Kelly in an interview with AP. "I just feel like when it comes to love and when it comes to telling stories, I had to put a little bit, well all of it on the record. 'Cause if you don't...it wouldn't have been me."

To add to the musical moment, Rowland released a new music video for the opening track. Surrounded by a group of seven expressive dancers, a very pregnant Kelly stuns in all her effortless beauty as she dons vibrant dresses accenting her baby bump. Directed by Lloyd Pursall, the "Flowers" music video reminds us just how flawless Ms. Kelly is. Simply stunning.

Watch the music video down below as well as the visual for the second track on the EP, "Black Magic," starring a very happy Kelly and her two sons. We love to see it!

Stream K on Apple Music and/or Tidal

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Rest In Peace Daddy U-Roy, The Original Dancehall Teacher

The race is not for the swift, but who can endure it. And Jamaica’s foundation deejay Daddy U-Roy is still setting the pace. Ewart Beckford, O.D., known to lovers of Jamaican music as U-Roy aka Daddy U-Roy the Teacher, passed away on Wednesday night (Feb. 17) at the age of 78. As a pioneer of Jamaican deejay music, aka toasting, aka the birth of dancehall, U-Roy's impact on popular music worldwide cannot be overstated. Upon the news of his passing, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson paid tribute to U-Roy as "The god of toasting," adding that "w/o him we wouldn't have the concept of hip-hop."

In the video for Rah Digga’s “Imperial,” Busta Rhymes shakes his locks into the camera and proclaims that “This station rules the nation with version.” Ardent students of reggae roots will recognize the line as a direct lift from “Rule the Nation,” a musical blast from 1970 that forever changed the soundscape of Jamaica, sending tsunami-sized ripples out from the little island that rocked the world. Never before had an instrumental “version” of a popular song been combined with straight-from-the-dancehall microphone toasting to create a hit single. Working with legendary rock-steady producer Duke Reid, a smooth-talking called U-Roy scored not one but three big tunes. “Wake The Town” and “Wear You to the Ball” completed U-Roy’s six-week lock on the top three positions in the Jamaican charts, and proved that deejaying (or, as Yankees would rename it, rapping) was here to stay.

U-Roy’s phenomenal debut came a full decade before MCs from the Bronx started complaining that the Sugar Hill Gang had bitten their style. So if you’re looking for the forefather of all rap stars, look no further. Though he is quick to credit Jamaican pioneers like Count Machuki, King Stitt, and Lord Comic, Daddy Roy is the one whose cool jive slang and hit records busted the dancehall style wide open, paving the way for untold generations of microphone chanters at home and abroad.

It's been more than 50 years since this Rastafarian welder from the Kingston ghetto took up the microphone to nice up the dance for Doctor Dickies’ Sound—later progressing to Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat and King Tubby’s Home Town Hi-Fi—U-Roy is regarded as a living legend anywhere dubplates rotate. Now in his late 50s, he continues to tour and record when he’s not operating his own sound system, the mighty Stur-Gav Hi-Fi, rolling with an awesome crew of lyrical masters that includes Brigadier Jerry, Josey Wales, and Charlie Chaplin. U-Roy’s latest CD, Serious Matter, released by the French label Tabou, features duets with a who’s-who of classical reggae vocalists, from the late Dennis Brown to Gregory Isaacs, Beres Hammond, Israel Vibration, and Third World.

How can one man be worthy to spar with such a powerful range of talent? As Shabba Ranks put it in his song “Respect”—“Just cool, cool. U-Roy done rule. U-Roy a godfather of the deejay school.” Or in the words of another foundation deejay, Tappa Zukie: “U-Roy is like a battery to me. Whenever I see U-Roy is like I charge up. Y’unnerstan? Him just give me the vibes to work. He’s like showing me back the real style. Working with U-Roy is like back in school. He is still the teacher.” If the latest graduating class of MCs and deejays should choose to listen, the Teacher has some valuable lessons to share. But as the old Jamaican saying goes, who can’t hear must feel.


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Teacher, what do you think of the state of dancehall reggae right now?

Hey—there’s a lot of changes in the dancehall ting right now. The music change a little bit an tings. The singers and deejays is like playin’ some different ting, so it’s different from when we started. There’s more slackness now an stuff like that—X-rated stuff.

But this dancehall ting been going on for years. Some people make it look like it’s just since Shabba Ranks and some other youth come that this dancehall ting come around. This ting’s been going on for years. The dancehall type of music was some music weh it’s like you’re too hardcore for the radio play. So a lot of songs, when the radio station hear them, they already been a hit. Because the sound system dance make them be a hit before they even get release. Caw we used to have things like music on dub plate, this is what you would call exclusive pre-release, yunno? Most sound been playing dubplate at dance for years. The radio station can’t afford to play those type of music, because—according to them—it’s not up to their standard. So nowadays these people make it look like “Hey dancehall business just come around yesterday.” Them just acknowledge it now.

You yourself have been making music since when, the 1960s?

From that time up to this, me play sound system. I wan’ tell you me a play sound system from like from ’65. But ’69 was the time when I kinda get more popular to all the Jamaican public.

When you were coming into your own, who were the deejays you looked up to?

There was Count Machuki, Lord Comic, people like that, King Stitt, yunno? Count Machuki used to be my favorite deejay. I think that is one of the most… educated deejays that one can ever listen to. He don’t crowd his music. Whenever he talking on sound system he don’t crowd the singer or nothing. He just space his words, yunno, and he don’t have a whole lot to say so that he crowd tings up. This was one man that really surprise me how he never do a lot of recording. He start recording long after I start record. And I surprise how this man really have no hits—I don’t know why.

Even a Deejay name King Sporty. He used to play for Duke Reid too. Dem time, I was deejay too, but I wasn’t inna dem class. They was ahead of me inna the sound system business. I was just like a likkle schoolkid, goin’ to school and still ask my grandmother to go out on the weekends. Long before I start holding the mike and stuff like that.

But their style was kinda different from mine because I kinda have this style that I… add things onto things. Like for instance, I used to have my style say “WOW!” Yunno? Style like that. In my talking I’d say “Love in the ghetto baby WOW! you got it” These deejays, they never have that style. (Laughs)

How did your recording career start?

Well, me used to have a biiig crowd that follow me from any part of Jamaica I play. It’s from deh so the people dem really like me. But I never even believe that things woulda go the way that they go for me. At that time deejay business was no business that people really have as anything big. Caw hey—I do a song with Peter Tosh name “Earth Rightful Ruler” yunno and it never got much play. Then I did another one name “Dynamic Fashion Way” with Ken Boothe and Keith Hudson and it never still go too far.

Then about a year after that I did “Wake the Town and Tell the People” and “Wear You to the Ball” and “This Station Rule the Nation” for Duke Reid and it just took off. Believe me, I hear these three tune been played on the radio and it even surprise me. I say “Cho!—these tunes get me really known to the people.“ I had one two and three for like six weeks and number one tune for 12 weeks..

Wasn’t that a revolutionary thing for a deejay to voice a record?

[Laughing] Me tell you—it’s really revolutionary thing, beca’ it never happen before. So my style I think is a blessing. I can only say that. I can’t put it no other way, cause believe me: a deejay have 1,2,3 on the chart? On the top 10? Hey—this used to be mostly foreign music and tings like that weh take up the chart. But they go to different record stores and take up a survey of which is the fastest-selling song for this week. Is just reality, the fastest-selling song, man.

Whose idea was it to make those records?

It was Duke Reid’s idea. He was the producer. You see, we used to play Tubby’s sound system. And Tubby’s used to play a lot of Duke Reid and Coxsone music, okay? So somebody from Duke Reid studio come to a dance one night where I was playing and he heard me talking on one of these riddims. And he go back to Duke Reid and tell Duke Reid hey Tubby have a deejay is the wickedest deejay you could ever hear. Right after that Duke Reid siddown and call me. And when I go down a studio he say, Look, I want you voice even one riddim for me. So we talk about likkle money ting, because at the time is like—hey—nothing big never a gwan. Even comparing to what them youth have been pickin’ up now, is like just cheese money. But at the time still, ya happy.


When the song hit number one did you get a little more cheese?

Oh yes [laughing] oh yes oh yes oh yes oh yes, yunno. When the song start pickin’ up, I start pickin’ up same way an’ gettin’ some money from him, money that keep me comfortable around my house for the week. When things start getting good, now, I said to him, Hey my royalties I gwine need to have a little house. And so yunno I buy a little house out of my money because I used to really scared of paying rent and them stuff. One time he offer me a car and I say, Hey—I have a bed and I have a stove, and I have my pot and things like this and I don’t see no car that can hold all these things. Yunno? So I get my house and I comfortable, yeah.

Deejay business was the beginning of rap music, right?

True true.

Do you think people really know and respect that side of the reggae?

I don’t think so. A lot of people do, a lot of people. But a lot still don’t. I just think that the time gone come when people gonna respect that.

What do you think about the rap mixing with the reggae?

One ting with me, I just like the more cultural side of hip hop. Something that send a message. I don’t like some of these hip hop weh talking bout bitch and mothaf**ker and stuff like that. We don’t need to sell these things to kids. Cause young kids is one of the biggest supporter in music, trust me. And if they hear you say something, is like hey—they gonna do exactly that.

As the teacher, what advice would you give to the younger artists of today?

Well… all I can tell them is hey, just be constructive, man. Yeh, just be more straight to the people. Come offa this gun talk an—yunno. We don’t want to hear about your gun and you have your gun pon you and dem stuff deh. Keep that! We don’t want no violence amongst the society. We want some peace and love, no matter what color you are, whether you white, pink, blue—just love. Ease off this war. War don’t make no sense. I don’t see no progress in war. Yeah. Something like that I woulda like tell them.

But I really like rap, becaw look, it keep the deejay business going. It’s the same form of deejay. It’s still deejay, but you call it rap. Singers come in and sing, rapper come in and say something—yunno I mean? It’s the same thing; it no different. Hey, for me, I really love it becaw it make it look like what I was doin’ wasn’t something stupid at all.

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How Did We All Miss The-Dream's Special Valentine's Day Performance?

What better way to enjoy Valentine's Day than with a serenade by hitmaker The-Dream? And how did many of us not know that he delivered a romantic performance for Tidal's Sessions series?

Dressed in a light pink suit with a carnation accenting his chest pocket, the recording artist sang into a hanging mic while standing in a classy set and what looks like every flower you can think of. In between fan-favorites like "I Luv Your Girl" (2008), "Purple Kisses" (2007), and "Forever" (2018), The-Dream's performance included messages about love with quotes like, "Love is a religion of its own" and "The truest love is when one gives all of their self to you."

A day before the premiere of his set, he shared a couple of behind-the-scenes photos from the recording session. In one post shared on his Instagram page, The-Dream explains the meaning behind the floral set design.

"ADAMU The inside of my mind and core looks similar to this, Heaven is always Right Now, make your thought into an Action and show the world how beautiful a mind can be," he wrote in a caption. "The mind deserves to be seen and not left for speculation or only known to the others who value the mind overall. Lavender/pink/red/blue/green. #life."

Although the holiday of love has passed, it's never too late to get into some grown and sexy tunes from the singer-songwriter and producer. So go grab some wine and a piece of that leftover chocolate and vibe out to The-Dream's performance set above. It's for the lover in you.

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