If you still haven’t got round to it, you need to listen to Kendrick Lamar’s last album, To Pimp a Butterfly.
It came out in 2015 and deservedly appeared in a host of best-of-year lists. Why deservedly? Well, it was one of the most ambitious – and successfully ambitious – albums in recent memory, with Lamar tackling weighty lyrical themes of social justice, hatred, and racism. Musically, it was not an instant, easy listen – there were few immediate hooks on the record and many moments were distinctively avant-garde, with a jazz feel throughout, but once you’d given it a few listens and got your teeth stuck into it, it didn’t let go.
As a sign of its influence, ‘How Much a Dollar Cost’ became President Obama’s favourite song of 2015, while the track ‘Alright’ was taken up as an anthem by the Black Lives Matter movement. He’s also become one of the most ferocious live performers in the world – a far cry from the type of lazy ‘MC and a backing track’ affair that used to often happen in hip-hop.
He followed it up last year with the equally excellent untitled unmastered. which showcased tracks and ideas which didn’t quite make the cut for To Pimp a Butterfly, but it seems that Lamar is not resting on his laurels, with his Instagram page suggesting that his fourth album proper is imminent.
He’s deleted all his posts and uploaded a single image with the roman numerals IV which seems pretty clear to us.
And what will it sound like?
Well, he’s apparently been working with super producer Rick Rubin and earlier this month he told the New York Times: "I think now, how wayward things have gone within the past few months, my focus is ultimately going back to my community and the other communities around the world where they're doing the groundwork.
"To Pimp a Butterfly was addressing the problem. I'm in a space now where I'm not addressing the problem anymore. We're in a time where we exclude one major component out of this whole thing called life: God. Nobody speaks on it because it's almost in conflict with what's going on in the world when you talk about politics and government and the system… It’s very urgent.”
[Main image: Rex]