MEMOS FROM A MUSIC FIEND
BY ALEJANDRO MAGAÑA
Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp A Butterfly
Been jamming to this one again lately…did this album really come out that long ago? Does it just seem like yesterday because its relevance hasn’t waned one iota, if not been exacerbated or magnified by the particular roiling of our national politics since the day it came out a half-decade ago? Was that memorable gone-viral performance at the Grammys really that long ago?
Released the year after D’angelo’s “Black Messiah” and the year before Childish Gambino’s “Awaken My Love,” then Nipsey is killed, and I’m reminded I swear I can not sleep again. Ever. Don’t bat an eyelash or an earhole because this is a New Black Renaissance we’ve been surrounded by, or did having the first Black POTUS just amplify the voices of the organic ecosystem that has floated to the top, the cream of the crop that are obviously descendants of a continuum that has always kept pushing, kept experimenting, kept providing angles, textures, perspectives that were always present, ever present, like calcium in bones, in Established Artists that make edges softer, tastes more palatable, for wary middle of the road folk? Is Pat Boone still alive? Is Elvis dead?
Pushed forward and pointed like the tip of an arrow, on top of Robert Johnson, Ma Rainey and Leadbelly, Dizzy, Billie and Bird, ‘Trane and Miles, Marvin, Curtis, and JB, Sly, Jimi and P-Funk to Wu-Tang, Tribe, and Outkast.
All I know is this is utterly magnificent and undeniably significant. Yeah. This is not “easy listening,” but it’s NOT not fun. Yeah motherfucker, believe it or not, some of us groove and dance to it! It IS A-R-T with a capital ‘A.’ But what does that mean?
Empty your mind, be alien, and listen. This is a story….psst…and it ain’t just ‘his.’