“Not content with his opinions, he will continually increase in intelligence, not content with his character, he will ceaselessly grow in strength and virtue; and not content with spiritual condition, he will, everyday, enter into a larger wisdom and fuller blessedness. In a word, a man should be contented, but not indifferent to his development as a responsible and spiritual being” — James Allen
We all have a choice. You can have two different beings within the same occupation but their reasons for tasks completion varies by various variables. That’s not to say that the choices laid out are bad, but one choice may stick out more vital than others — the decision to help self in order to help others. This decision is backed by a mixture of selfishness and selflessness; learning to jump rope so others can jump with you or at least understand how to.
Stagnation is a word that cannot be accounted for when calling Kendrick Lamar’s name. Life is all about the evolution and watching the 29-year-old K. Dot develop his skillset and grow as a person has been one for the ages. Perspectively, we’ve seen Lamar angle his cause from his own hood to outside of the swap meets; a vessel for those back home fighting their own battles and a “continious war.”
Kendrick Lamar’s initiation into the industry began with an interlude on Drake’s 2011 Take Care album. From that moment on, the kid who used to run through the streets of Rosecrans Ave in Compton, CA had a choice to make: to either pimp or be pimped by the industry. The Kendrick that we knew from Drake’s 2011 “Club Paradise” tour and the Kendrick we find prophesying and knowing his value to the industry on 2015’s “Mortal Man” are combative in a sense — but both know the options of the two-way coin that flips in sight. Kendrick could either be the tail side and tag along or he could headlining his own path. As the walls of the cocoon attempted closure on Kendrick’s career, he fought against the walls in 2014. Yes, in 2012 he did put out his official major label debut album — good kid m.A.A.d city and it told the tale of his city — inviting all within the walls of the West.
Beyond the walls of Compton, he found himself in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. This is where the inspiration for To Pimp A Butterfly floated in — rough — but gently.
“I felt like I belonged in Africa. I saw all the things that I wasn’t taught. Probably one of the hardest things to do is put [together] a concept on how beautiful a place can be, and tell a person this while they’re still in the ghettos of Compton. I wanted to put that experience in the music.” — Kendrick in interview with the Grammys
I can recall the progression of K. Dot through each body of work he released. In GKMC, Kendrick reminisced on being “the next black boy to fly — out of Compton” and on TPAB, he’s voicing himself to be a revolutionary figure such as the late and great Mr. Nelson Mandela. Despite the fame and glory that has come from him making his strong marks in the industry, Kendrick still battled with depression and ultimately, that led to a new direction with his music. Survivor’s guilt, loved ones who still battle evils at home and a platform to say something more; there was a story to be told and just the right person to do so.
Kendrick’s growth from caterpillar to butterfly had occurred to the masses before he, himself, thought so. His true transformation took place in 2014 while creative process of TPAB. The walls that trapped many before his time and during his time has inspired Kendrick to take control and bring forward new concepts. He survived, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t go back to his roots and water old seeds with new ideas. It makes you think: what are you telling those around you? Are you helping the issues that go on or are you adding more weight to them.
“untitled 08 |09.06.2014” is an underrated song in Kendrick’s catalog. Blue faces (money) didn’t exactly rush the bank accounts of Lamar, but his dreams of chasing rap stardom never startled him away. Then, we take the other parts of the song into consideration. He realizes that his journey in Compton wasn’t any different (if not better) than the realities that Cape Town people go through daily. That was a “turning point” for Him and his struggles appeared mild in comparison to the blaze of flames that go in South Africa.
Suicidal terrorist in 2011 to a prophet and leader of many in 2015 — still occurring, running a strong engine and transmission that transitions further in to prophet-grounded areas. To think if Kendrick never took that trip to South Africa doesn’t sit right with me; TPAB doesn’t happen and Kendrick’s questions remain unanswered to a degree. The caterpillar that crawled the surface of the earth doesn’t find the transition to become the butterfly and float above the turmoil of the industry. Dying of thirst, Kendrick hydrates himself. Making room for mistakes and depression, Kendrick ran for answers — helping himself — ultimately becoming clutch for those back home. Pimping the industry, he’s dug the grave to not succumb to the money, power, fame and women that his title offers him. Becoming a butterfly, he rebuked the evils of Lucy as best as possible, immortalizing his power. Telling stories “through dead ‘homies,” we can feel PAC and Mandela in his demeanor and lyrical approach.