12/31/15: Kendrick Lamar

@@@ Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope, 2015).  I thought Lamar’s first record was hyped and while I liked the sounds on this record when I checked it our earlier this year, this record has gotten so much love from our unbiased record reviewing community that I had to roll back and listen again.

I listened to the first three tunes last night and while I thought the third tune, King Kunta, is pretty hot, the first two are less so.  The first tune is basically a George Clinton ’80s era tune with some rapping by Lamar.  While I’m assuming Lamar orchestrated the track the credit can’t really go to him when the tune is so clearly a Clinton jam.  And not a Hilz Clinton jam.

I made it to the 13th track before I bailed.  What did I like about this record?  I like Lamar’s voice, he sounds unique — a little gravelly, he’s quick, he’s got soul.  I like the sounds on the record, though I thought sonically it spanned a few too many sounds and sounded a bit hit or miss in places.  He did some more George Clinton-like jams, he’s got some sounds that would sound at home on an old Prince record, he’s got some early ’80s electro funk sounds.  I like his lyrics, though like his sounds they kinda jump around all over the place.  He’s got some personal lyrics about himself, he’s got some conscious black race kinda lyrics, he’s got horny lyrics.

I liked the tunes more towards the end of what I heard.  I liked the tune ‘Complexion’ a bunch, and I liked the tune Institutionalized and King Kunta.

It’s a really good record, B+, but it’s not a great record.  I just read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ column about the police in Chicago here.  Here’s an artist/intellectual at the top of his game.  He’s not jumping around at all, his ideas are tight and lean with no fat, his writing is powerful and focused.  I don’t hear the same thing on this record. And you might say well Kendrick Lamar is just starting out and he’s young, and I would say go listen to Prince’s 1999.  Focused and relentless, just one ridiculous sound after another.  Maybe Kendrick Lamar will hit that on his next record, I have no clue, but you listen and compare him to other greats and see how he stacks up.  Then go listen to Curtis Mayfield’s first solo record and tell me that doesn’t just burn all the way through.

YTD recordings listened to: 1000
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 566
Not good music: 337

Honorable Mentions: 27
Buys: 20

Possibles: Chris McGregor, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, About Group, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Bone Dance, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Debruit, Slidhr, The Whammies, The Chewers, Alexander Hawkins, Toxic Holocaust, Equal Stones, Comeback Kid, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Fofoulah, Lozen, Erase Errata, Mohamed Abozekry, Dawn Richard, Leo Welch, Mastery, Leviathan, Xibalba, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Akitsa,  Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Destruction Unit, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Noisem, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Mystic Braves

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