“To Pimp A Butterfly” is an album that transcends genres and generations. The album appealed to folks in the inner city, suburbs and rural areas. However, it couldn’t transcend pop at the Grammys, where it only won awards in rap categories.
It couldn’t take the prize for best album, which in itself is an award for transcending genres. Taylor Swift took that for “1989,” which is a really good album. But no album created the impact on this country’s musical and social landscape as Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly.”
While “1989” is amazingly produced product, “To Pimp A Butterfly” was pure art. Art is meant to challenge, to make people think, to move the spirit. Did “1989” do that?
Not for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I have respect for Taylor Swift as a songwriter and entertainer (this is not my Kanye moment). There is something authentic and personal about “To Pimp A Butterfly” that you can hear in the lyrics and music.
The album was made by a community of artists and musicians from Los Angeles, Kendrick’s hometown. It was a collaborative project. “1989” was manufactured to be a perfect pop album. It followed the rules of pop music to the ’T’ and was awarded for that. “To Pimp A Butterfly” didn’t follow rules. Maybe that’s why it didn’t win.
And you know what? That’s fine. I’m not angry. No bad blood toward Swift. She didn’t steal the award from Kendrick, as some are saying on Twitter. The best album award was meant for albums like “1989” — not “To Pimp A Butterfly.”
It made people think. It made people angry. And isn’t that what art should do?
“1989” followed the rules and deserved the prize. But Kendrick won a bigger prize in my eyes — America’s conscience. And his performance last night proved that.
As one writer put it, “Kendrick Lamar gave the only performance that mattered at the Grammys.” The performance was not only a political and social statement, but a musical statement.
It spanned genres from rock to jazz to reggae to hip hop, which were all created by the African diaspora. The performance was honest and personal — rare for the Grammys. His performance made some people uncomfortable. It made people think. It made people angry.
And isn’t that what art should do?
Congratulations, Taylor Swift on winning the album of the year. But THANK YOU Kendrick for moving my soul and making an impact on America’s political and social discourse.
And for that, you were the winner of the night.