It doesn’t happen often, but some art is tailor-made for a moment in history.
In 2004, Kanye West’s The College Dropout captured the self-identity crisis of middle-class America in the midst of ultra-consumerism, racism in a ‘post-racial’ society, and the search for spirituality in an increasingly-secular world. Brother Ali’s Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color was the perfect encapsulation of 2012, weaving a narrative around the presidential election, Islamophobia and the ongoing War on Terror, and income inequality in the aftermath of a recession. Kendrick Lamar’s time is now.
No major label artist – save for perhaps J. Cole – is close to matching Kendrick’s significance in the midst of what’s happening in Charleston and (more broadly) the United States, and what has unfurled in the last half-decade after the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and many others. To Pimp a Butterfly is the at once the encapsulation of this world of racial tension and a catalyst for change. It’s brash, it’s unapologetically black, and most importantly, it’s a message of black self-love and reassurance when, around the hip-hop landscape, those messages are so few and far between.
Read the full column after the jump.