Collection: 19. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar had already proven himself hip-hop’s boldest visionary — so by now, people expected greatness from him. But he topped himself with To Pimp a Butterfly — a sprawling, ambitious portrait of America and his dangerous place in it, with a host of jazz influences. “It’s a unique sound,” said longtime Lamar producer Mark “Sounwave” Spears. “Every producer I’ve ever met was sending me stuff [for the album], but there was a one-in-a-million chance you could send a beat that actually fit what we were doing.” As Lamar said when the album was released, “I pride myself on writing now rather than rapping. My passion is bringing storylines around and constructing a full body of work, rather than just a 16-bar verse.”

“Alright” became a Black Lives Matter anthem, with “The Blacker the Berry” as the flip side. “How Much a Dollar Cost” is a haunting meditation on mortality, set to a Radiohead piano loop. And in “King Kunta,” K-Dot takes in the whole sweep of African American heartbreak, from the Middle Passage to the hood, from Richard Pryor to P-Funk. “You take a black kid out of Compton and put him in the limelight, and you find answers about yourself you never knew you were searching for,” Lamar said. “There’s some stuff in there, man. It’s a roller coaster. It builds.” -

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