Album: To Pimp a Butterfly
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath, Interscope
Producer: Pharrell Williams, Sounwave
God or a gun? A binary as timeless as oppression, it is central to Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.” The fulcrum of the Compton native’s 2015 opus, To Pimp a Butterfly, the song is an impassioned prayer delivered with one foot dangling over a desert of desultory excess and the other planted firmly on blood-streaked concrete. The questions mount as the divide widens. What do you do when wealth, once a believed theriac, becomes a toxin? How do you excise those who make you feel like a commodity? How do you release the rage you feel when watching the rampant violence perpetrated against black people every day? Over a lush and percussive sax-laden suite from Sounwave and Pharell, Lamar admits to initially avoiding all the aforementioned inquiries in favor of flesh and finances. But, by the end, he announces his newfound clarity. Rap is his answer—a penance, a chance at redemption and resolution for “i” and we.