Inquiring Minds

Locals Weigh In on Kendrick Lamar's Modern Classic

The weekend before last, Stevie Wonder touched down in Houston to perform Songs In the Key of Life in its entirety. About the same time, many of us were hearing Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly for the first time. It doesn't feel like a stretch to imagine a day in the distant future where an elder Lamar returns to perform this album in a similar celebratory fashion.

Everything about Butterfly feels classic, beginning with the very first of thousands of sounds on the album, the scratchiness of a worn vinyl record. Its themes; the way it's stitched together via interludes and spoken-word bridges that begs for it to be heard from start to finish for a full appreciation; the samples that are heavy on the soul and jazz of a long-ago era -- all of it has the feel of something that can be comfortably nestled between Wonder's Innervisions and Prince'sSign O' the Times on the record shelf.

The album has been universally acclaimed. But recognizing I might be hearing the hype instead of the music, I reached out to a couple of folks whose opinions I value for some perspective.

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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.