Breaking the global record for streams in a single day, nearly 10 million people around the world tuned in to hear Kendrick Lamar's sophomore album in the hours after its release. To Pimp a Butterfly was widely hailed as an instant classic, garnering laudatory album reviews, many awards, and even a canonized place in Harvard's W. E. B. Du Bois archive. Why did this strangely compelling record stimulate the emotions and imaginations of listeners?
This book takes a deep dive into the sounds, images, and lyrics of To Pimp a Butterfly to suggest that Kendrick appeals to the psyche of a nation in crisis and embraces the development of a radical political conscience. Kendrick breathes fresh life into the Black musical protest tradition and cultivates a platform for loving resistance. Combining funk, jazz, and spoken word, To Pimp a Butterfly's expansive sonic and lyrical geography brings a high level of innovation to rap music. More importantly, Kendrick's introspective and philosophical songs compel us to believe in a future where, perhaps, we gon' be alright.
About the Author
Sequoia Maner is Assistant Professor of English at Spelman College, USA. She is author of the poetry collection Little Girl Blue (2021) and co-editor of the book Revisiting the Elegy in the Black Lives Matter Era (2020). Her poem "upon reading the autopsy of Sandra Bland" was a finalist for the 2017 Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize. Her essays, poems, and reviews can be found in venues such as Meridians, Obsidian, The Langston Hughes Review, The Feminist Wire, Auburn Avenue, and elsewhere.