Let’s be honest and say it was lucky this was released this year. It may not have topped so many lists otherwise.
It’s not that it isn’t great but it has flaws too . Ill start with the fact flows often disconnect from the production to the point you lose focus. The multi or the end point goes too long . So you start to notice a monotony in the beat. It isn’t a bad thing to focus on the instrumental, it’s just you have to wonder why he pushes you out of the trance he pulled you into. It feels like being on a roller coaster that stops and starts so many times it begins to irritate you. The production isn’t the problem its the parts where he pins your ears into the production that feel off.
Then there’s the collaborations . If Kendrick called you tomorrow and asked you to be on a track – how hard would you go at it? I’m not sure exactly what happened here but it almost feels like Bilal dropped a stem off on a USB stick and said ‘place this wherever you want man Ill never use it’.
Yet it is number one and here’s why.
This album talks to you, like all brutal and hard conversations it will take some time for you to process though. It talks to different people differently. Think about that for a second , Kendrick has written verses that can multi-thread meanings for different audiences at once. There is no one capable of doing that currently as well as Kendrick. It’s the most aware voice you have heard in recent times. How can an artist articulate so well the flaws of his fellow and past musicians which shared his position? The wealth, the greed, the hubris but really the responsibility. Coltrane, Hathaway, Tupac – These are very real stories and Kendrick is trying to share a chapter of his story as it happens. He recognises the end of the road early and speaks to it.
It is a concept , stand alone, independent , commercial and groundbreaking album all in one. How do you start to create an album of that scale? Its not easy to find that sort of a balance but Kendrick does it with the negative wandering of what he offers. He is able to bring you up and down with the intricate nature of his delivery , the adlib of an instrumental bridge you weren’t expecting and the fact the entire album is an essay / open letter to the world. It talks about who he is , what he’s experienced and most importantly he fears in an effort to alter the future before him.
“The result: wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant. Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations that the caterpillar never considered, ending a lifetime of struggle. I know the caterpillar and the butterfly are different. They are one in the same.”