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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India.Arie reminds us that there’s nothing like the feeling of “Steady Love” in the sentimental music video for the new single from her Worthy album. David Banner stars as Arie’s love interest, and the duo showcases perfect chemistry as they cover many of the relationship bases.

From romantic bliss to challenging moments and everything in between,“Steady Love” speaks to the joyous ride that is falling in love, while the visual brings that feeling to life and ends on a wonderfully climactic note.

In a February interview with Billboard, Arie spoke about the significance of titling the album Worthy.

“The title of the album was Worthy for a couple of years before I had any songs,” she revealed. “I love that word. It’s so potent and encompasses so much [in terms of being] deserving of regard and respect. I always have a favorite word. For a while, it was resilient then authentic.

“When I did the interview with Oprah, she asked me how long unworthiness had been my calling card,” Arie continued. “I realized that I didn’t feel unworthy inside but I could see how I could be giving off that energy to others. It made me double-down on wanting to call this project Worthy and explore why she asked that question.”

The album’s title track is one of the collaborations between Arie and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Joel Cross. “At that point, I knew what I wanted to say. Then all the other songs started to take shape, being about respect. Even the love songs are about how you want to be treated, how you want to treat other people. [Radio personality] Tom Joyner said this album is a perfect blend of message songs and love songs. That’s where I’ve been in my life these last few years. And the word worthy is imbued in all of it.”

Watch the video for “Steady Love” above.

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Megan Thee Stallion’s Southern Rap 'Fever' Dream

Hot Girl Meg is already an urban legend. You can see her on the cover of Fever, looming over a luxury auto in skin-tight leopard print as flames and horses erupt behind her. It’s the undeniable movie poster aesthetic of blaxploitation icons like Pam Grier’s Coffy. It’s a perfect fit for rapper Megan Thee Stallion, whose music channels a Southern rap tradition full of larger-than-life figures like Trina, Gangsta Boo, and her hero Pimp C.

The 24-year-old born Megan Pete started rapping in childhood after accompanying her mother, Holly Thomas aka rapper Holly-Wood, to recording sessions in Houston. Megan’s career began with freestyles at college parties, and she released three mixtapes in three years with her mother as her manager, building her buzz while still completing courses. The rapper is slick and authoritative on the mic as she channels alter egos like Hot Girl Meg, who she calls “the party girl, the polished girl, the turn-up queen.” Her debut album Fever, released last week, is a showcase for this alter ego. Hanging with Hot Girl Meg makes for a fun 40 minutes.

Though her profile has risen to the level of Drake Instagrams and Khalid features, Megan Thee Stallion does not make pop music. She raps, she’s excellent, and she knows it. “I’m a real rap bi**h, this ain’t no pop sh*t,” she ad-libs victoriously on her first song “Realer.” Sure, pop music has eagerly siphoned from rap this decade, but rappers have been drawing lines in the sand since Q-Tip said “Rap is not pop, if you call it that then stop” in ‘91. Nowadays, the A Tribe Called Quest auteur is still pushing rap forward as an executive producer for Fever.

“Sex Talk,” the album’s lead single, is a showcase for Megan’s bars. “I’ma bust quick if your lips soft,” she raps in short bursts around distorted bass and snaps. “Rock that ship ‘til ya blast off.” In her second verse, she accents the offbeat to boast, “I should be in museums because this body a masterpiece.” Though the song’s popularity was eclipsed by the video release for last summer’s more bombastic “Big Ole Freak,” it’s a fitting introduction to Thee Stallion: her range of staccato to elongated flows is catnip for heads like her who grew up on freestyle DVDs, paired with a blown out beat riding the minimalist wave that’s subsumed parties across the country.

Sex is the main concern in Megan Thee Stallion’s work, followed closely by money. Such confident sexuality from a black woman has unfortunately drawn criticism and retrograde questioning from some in the media, but she’s undaunted. “You let the boys come up in here and talk about how they gon’ run a train on all our friends and they want some head and they want to shoot everything up, and they want to do drugs,” she told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “Well, we should be able to go equally as hard. I don’t want to hear none of that ‘That’s offensive!’ or ‘All she talk about is p***y.’”

Megan’s mercenary demand for her pleasures is a refreshing gender swap of rap tropes. On “Running Up Freestyle,” she raps, “He say I should be nicer, well your d**k should be bigger.” She’s blunt enough to make me clutch my pearls on behalf of my gender before I burst out laughing. Later in “Sex Talk,” Megan kicks a would-be lover out when she cues up trap music and he asks “Girl, you tryna trap me?” She’s offended by the insinuation she needs to keep a captive, when she doesn’t need anyone she doesn’t want in the moment. It’s a role reversal that plenty of female rappers have executed previously, but few with the same raw skill.

“Hood Rat Sh*t” opens with a sample of a 2008 viral video, a 7-year-old explaining his desire to do “hoodrat stuff” with his friends. The uptempo drums bounce around cavernous piano chords with gleeful menace like a gaggle of unsupervised kids. Megan’s rhymes launch into double time in the lead-up to the chorus, which she spits like a playground taunt. In the third verse, she gives an evocative example of the title: she’s at the strip club drinking Henny from a champagne glass, “eating chicken wings with a thick bi**h” who’s dancing like the diamonds in her necklace. Her swaggering flow sounds like the reincarnation of Pimp C, with the tall tale verses to match.

Rising Charlotte rapper DaBaby adds a verse over bellowing 808s on “Cash Sh*t.” When Megan says “That’s my dog, he gon’ sit down and listen,” DaBaby describes fixing his partner’s weave during sex and incorporating headlocks into new positions. On its own, his verse might be too direct, like a stranger leering from the end of the bar. It’s perfectly absurd on Megan’s album. He works as a foil to the main attraction, like he’s just trying to keep up.


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Real HOTGIRL shit 😛

A post shared by Hot Girl Meg (@theestallion) on May 4, 2019 at 9:46am PDT

The only other guest on Fever is Juicy J on “Simon Says,” where he also supplies a beat that sounds like a house party in the middle of a home invasion. “Simon says bust it open like a freak,” Megan raps like a nursery rhyme, a fitting match for the originator of “Slob On My Knob.” The song was the center of a minor controversy over the album release weekend when singer Wolf Tyla implied she had a writing credit and drew an indignant response from Megan. The facts became harder to parse from there. Maybe Tyla wrote the hook, or maybe Juicy did and asked her to record a reference track. (A just okay hook to go to bat for as an unknown ghostwriter, frankly.) In an era where the world’s biggest male stars snipe at each other about fragments of songs they’ve written for one another, this shouldn’t be a story, but a rising female rapper can’t allow any question of her bona fides.

Even if “Simon Says” is entirely ghostwritten, the Three 6 Mafia homage is far from an aberration in Megan’s catalog, or even on Fever. Juicy J produced two other album cuts, future strip club anthems “Pimpin” and “Dance.” Fellow co-founder Project Pat contributes to “W.A.B.,” built around a sample of the group’s “Weak Azz Bi**h.” Three 6’s influence is apparent in so many strains of modern hip-hop, but on Fever Megan places the Memphis collective alongside Houston and New Orleans in a firmly Southern context. The album concludes with Megan declaring herself “Hot Girl Meg from the motherf**kin’ South,” and it doesn’t feel like a conclusion, just a tantalizing cliffhanger promising further misadventures.

Fever is not perfect. “Best You Ever Had” strays a little too close to pop. Halfway through an album of knocking beats, it’s jarring to hear Megan’s voice coated in electronic sheen, sharing space with a recorder loop. In headphones the project becomes a bit repetitive in the back half, but it won’t be noticeable blaring out of club speakers. Given how quickly she’s befriended so many other stellar young female rappers, it would have been great to hear her spar with some of them on her debut.

Nevertheless, Megan Thee Stallion is picking up the baton for Southern hip-hop with a quick tongue and trunk rattling beats optimized for twerking. She inherited the legacy from her mother, as well as an unstoppable work ethic, the kind that kept her from cancelling shows even after her mother’s tragic death this spring because “I know she wouldn’t want me to stop.” Not long ago, a buzzy mixtape rapper signing to a major label like 300 Entertainment was a one-way ticket to clunky albums overstuffed with radio bait. Fever’s cohesion is a testament to Megan’s talent and dedication. Look forward to partying with Hot Girl Meg all summer.

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Megan Thee Stallion Releases Fiery "Realer" Video

Megan Thee Stallion is truly prepping for a hot girl summer. Following up the highly-anticipated release of Fever, the Houston-bred rapper has officially released the visuals for the project's opening song, "Realer."

Red-headed Meg and her friends brandish toy guns, high karate kicks and body rolls as she talks her sh*t. And, much like her project's artwork, there were flames—both literally and figuratively—to be had all around.

Even some of her celebrity peers have expressed excitement over her video's release.


— TRINA (@TRINArockstarr) May 21, 2019

🐎 🔥

— Wale (@Wale) May 21, 2019

Watch Hot Girl Meg's spicy "Realer" video up top.

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