I’ve been working on a piece about To Pimp A Butterfly for a while. I’ve written about how limiting it is to see the album as solely pro-Black and even a criticism of “Alright,” but it read like a term paper. I also read a good portion of the think-pieces and reviews that various publications posted about the album. But, I realized that an important part of the conversation was missing: something that’s personal. So, I scrapped my original piece and decided to write about why I liked the album so much, which led to this brief introspective piece.
Love and light to Kendrick Lamar for this healing and inspiring work of art.
I truly believe that music has healing powers, that the Creator places some energy inside of it to remind me of His presence, mercy and love. I feel that divine energy often as I listen to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, an album that, to me, is more about spiritual growth than black pride. Like Kendrick, I’ve been on a path to rediscovery after taking a fall in my own life.
My decline came when I wasn’t truthful to myself (and to others) about being ready for law school. So many things happened in that time period that showed me that it wasn’t my time to go. But, out of impatience, I denied the signs, even with them staring me in my face. My decline, just like Kendrick in his, became resentment that turned into a deep depression that came out in the form of internal — and some external — screams. I tried to mask my emotions in mantras similar to “we gon’ be alright,” but negative energies and self-doubt reemerged because I never fully dealt with the root of the problem.
My problems, combined with the tragic news stories of police brutality, were an emotional downfall waiting to happen. I was in a very dark space. I felt like I lost control. I was battling with what I denied as depression. I feared seeking help, so I went into solitude, which caused my once close relationships to fade. I drowned myself in self-pity and music. I didn’t want to deal with anything or anybody.
To Pimp A Butterfly came out at a very emotional part of this journey and was a relief to me as time passed. After listening to the album over and over again (and I really mean over and over again), I felt that there was something wrong with Kendrick that was similar to what I had been going through. I heard so many of these progressions and regressions on the album: his rise, the signs of his decline, his cries of anger and doubt in himself, the devil trying to run game on him, and a source of light that saved him from his mistakes. I‘ve prayed and tried to remain open to receive some of the same enlightenment Kendrick received.
Right now, I find myself at the point of “Momma,” a place of (re)discovery and new beginnings. It’s like the moment when the light starts to peak out and you see that you’re near the end of the tunnel. It’s a very vulnerable place, yet I’m becoming hopeful that everything will be fine. I’ve learned to trust in it again because I saw a similar situation happen to me before in my life that yielded many positive outcomes. During that time, Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool was my soundtrack and writing was a part of my release, just as it is today.
A fall or two, along with honesty, vulnerability, forgiveness and faith are necessary parts of growth. All of these elements of growth are present in To Pimp A Butterfly…and in life. That’s what makes this album so much more than a pro-Black album to me. It’s a reminder of how life is a continuous lesson with tests and pop quizzes along the way. I just have to remind myself that I’m gon’ be alright as I go through it, that I should be comfortable with myself and love myself on this journey. Oh, and I gotta make sure to do a two-step to “You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said)” as I go through it…because you can’t be sad while listening to it.