In the fall of 2015, following the release of his critically-acclaimed, platinum-selling album To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar announced that he would bypass the round of huge, multi-city touring that would customarily follow such a successful project. While the decision to forgo a large stadium tour in the wake of Butterfly would have struck many as a misstep, the move was perfect.
Instead, Kendrick hit the road with a mini-tour, “Kunta’s Groove Sessions,” a quick and dirty, eight-city jaunt which found him pulling up on mid-sized theaters throughout the South and on both coasts. The purpose behind this choice was clear: To Pimp A Butterfly’s quirky, complex and jazz inflected hip hop songs required a level of intimacy and even physical proximity to the audience that would be difficult to reproduce in a 20,000 seat arena.
Much like Public Enemy’s Chuck D in the summer of 1988 or Jay-Z on 9/11, 2001, Kendrick Lamar had established himself as the pacesetter of the day. He was / is, the rapper with the loudest, most (culturally) resonant voice. In the months immediately following the reception of Butterfly, it was clear that in the minds of many that he was one of, if not the leading creative voice in mainstream hip-hop. A large part of his emergence as the mouthpiece of his generation has been his ability to relate his own personal fears, hopes and ambitions with those of his audience. Throughout his work, the notion of individual triumph and/or failure at the hands of forces larger than himself has remained a central component to his songs. Continue reading →