To Pimp a Butterfly and DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
TPAB was my first introduction to rap albums as a story, and boy did this album not disappoint. Kendrick Lamar brilliantly explores racial prejudice, both self-hatred and self-love, African history, language politics, and the political and social dynamics of black neighborhoods. He blends modern rap styles with jazzy tunes and a fictional conversation with Tupac Shakur in avant-garde fashion as a love letter to the black experience. I didn’t think he could top this album, but a few years later—he did. DAMN. builds on his previous albums by exploring black identity through the lens of liberation theology, and the discontent that follows once you realize that you’re not good enough to live up to American religious ideal. He turns his focus away from just the black community and points a finger at the United States as a whole. On DAMN. Lamar uses current hip-hop and trance sounds, ditching the historical infusion of his predecessor, and focuses on police brutality, black on black violence, success, gun violence, and the fear of dying too soon. It won a Pulitzer Prize, I mean, do I need to say anything more?