Music Review: Kendrick Lamar resists connecting the dots on To Pimp A Butterfly

No accomplishment in hip-hop is rarer or more celebrated than the classic debut, so the rap world was eager to welcome Kendrick Lamar’s breakthrough Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City as one in 2012. Never mind that it wasn’t actually Lamar’s first album: Good Kid announced the arrival of a major talent, and like every mythologized rap debut, it seemed almost presciently aware of its own importance. Lamar even subtitled the album “A Short Film By Kendrick Lamar,” a needlessly pretentious billing that telegraphed his cinematic vision for the project. He brought a screenwriter’s sense of order to Good Kid‘s day-in-the-life narrative about coming of age in Compton. Even its detours were tightly plotted. The trade-off for that meticulous structure, however, was that it fed Lamar’s tendency to over-explain himself. He highlighted every theme in yellow, repeating and underscoring every major point, often …

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