Kendrick Recalls How Trip to South Africa Influenced ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’: ‘It’s Something Bigger Than Compton’

The latest episode of the 'Big Hit Show' podcast delves into how a trip to South Africa in 2014 influenced Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp a Butterfly.'

Kendrick Lamar performing at the Grammys

Image via Getty/Kevin Mazur

Kendrick Lamar performing at the Grammys

Higher Ground and Spotify’s The Big Hit Show podcast has returned with the second episode of Season 2, which focuses on Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly.

The Alex Pappademas-hosted show taps Kendrick’s collaborators and peers, as well as K-Dot himself, to provide context for the seminal project. In the latest installment, the rapper discusses how deeply influential a 2014 trip to South Africa was for him and for the making of TPAB. He visited Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and the nearby Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.

“It was vital,” Dave Free said. “I don’t think the album even would have been what it would have been if he didn’t go get that experience. … He called me one night, he was like, ‘Bro, I just went through a village.’ He’s like, ‘Dog, I took my shirt off.’ He was [like], ‘I took my shirt off and I was just with the people.’ He was like, ‘They were just hugging me, they was just hugging me. And they was just loving me.’ And he’s like, ‘I never felt love like that. I never felt that much love in one place. Just love, like the energy of that.’”

Kendrick told Pappademas the story in his own words. “You know [Mandela] was fighting for equality, served 27 years, 18 years in that small little cell, but still kept his mental capacity and still kept his integrity and his enthusiasm to motivate not only himself but the people around him. It inspired me a hundred percent.”

The 34-year-old continued, “I took that experience and looked within myself for my own experiences. Okay, I come from a background of a neighborhood that wasn’t so much perceived to be great but I can’t let these four corners define who I am or define who my homeboys are.” Kendrick continued, “I took that experience and the whole concept about To Pimp A Butterfly was to share that experience with them. To go back to Compton and to tell them what I’ve learned. … It was me explaining my experiences and what emotions it brought up from that experience. And tell them, ‘Yo it’s something bigger than Compton and where we from.’”

Kendrick has talked about this trip before, telling Complex in 2016 that after that trip, he felt like he “belonged in Africa” and spoke of how “beautiful” the continent is. He also honored Mandela on the day of his death in 2013, advising his fans to pay respect by “research[ing] a small piece of Nelson Mandela life.”

Advising all my young ones that follow me to research a small piece of Nelson Mandela Life. That's how you pay your respect...... GO!

— Kendrick Lamar (@kendricklamar) December 5, 2013

Listen to episode two of the Big Hit Show below.

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