Rapper Kendrick Lamar released his highly-anticipated album To Pimp a Butterfly this month and it immediately sparked conversation about the social-political topics it covers. This week, To Pimp a Butterfly became Kendrick Lamar’s first number one album. But not surprising to critics, individual songs on Kendrick’s album have gotten rankings of their own.
The two singles from the album were the second and third songs to hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Lamar’s angry political lyrics in “The Blacker the Berry,” over an old-school composition, landed the single at #66. The single with a similar outcry, “King Kunta,” was a few places ahead at #61. But what critics find most impressive are the songs that aren’t official singles from Kendrick’s were so effective in their messages that they made it on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as well.
One song, “Wesley Theory,” features George Clinton and was able to reach the #91 spot on the chart. It was not a successful as “Alright,” which made it to the #83 spot. Kendrick Lamar’s “These Walls” came in at #94 while another politically driven song, “Institutionalized,” holds the 99th spot. Kendrick’s self-motivation anthem “i” appeared on the chart prior to the release of To Pimp A Butterfly at #39.
Critics believe that Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album will likely remain on the Billboard Hot 100 chart because of it’s social-political relevance and representation of African-American culture. According to critic Mary Ellen Matthew of Entertainment Weekly, Kendrick Lamar gets an A.
“‘To Pimp a Butterfly,’ doubles down on density, embracing the entire history of black American music in the process—not just chest-pounding rap but throwback soul, churning jazz, Sly Stone-style riot funk, front-porch blues, and highly politicized spoken word.”
To Pimp a Butterfly has captured the attention of more than just the music crowd. Leaders and politicians find the album to be of importance as well. Political Science and International Affairs Professor Marc Lynch views To Pimp a Butterfly as a book and holds Kendrick Lamar’s political views up to great violence theorists like Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth.
“Like a great book, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ stands alone, telling a coherent story from start to finish in a unique voice and making an important statement about big issues. It is an organic whole, a sustained reflection on complex ideas, which offers great fun along the way but makes no compromises to the format or scope of the ‘single.’”
Kendrick Lamar’s response to the success of his album was a quaint and humble one via Twitter.
I Appreciate it.
— Kendrick Lamar (@kendricklamar) March 18, 2015
Critics expect Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly to remain number one for some time.