Show Off To Your Friends With This Guide To The Music Behind Kendrick Lamar’s Latest Album


Mon, March, 16 by


It is here! Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is out. It was released a week early and you can now listen to it on Spotify. It was up on iTunes to purchase this morning but was taken down this afternoon and is only available for preorder. If we can say, this record is AMAZING. It is inventive, interesting, topical and often fun.

Because Kendrick is a student of the world, and especially the music world, he gathered a lot of different sources when he was writing the songs and the lyrics. So we pulled together a few of the many references to songs on the album, so you can drop knowledge bombs on your friends when this album comes on.

Get to know some of the songs behind the songs of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” – Lyrics Sampled in “King Kunta”

In the third verse of “King Kunta”, Kendrick raps “Annie are you ok? Annie are you ok?”, a line from the classic MJ track.

James Brown’s “The Payback” – Lyrics Sampled in “King Kunta”

In verse one of “King Kunta”, Kendrick raps the line from James Brown’s “The Payback”, “I can dig rapping.”

Frank Ocean’s “Swim Good” – Song Name Mentioned in “These Walls”

We love the idea of Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean working together. In the song “These Walls”, Kendrick subtly name drops one of Frank’s biggest songs, “Swim Good” with the line, “If these walls could talk they’d tell me to swim good.”

Killer Mike – Name Dropped in “Hood Politics”

Kendrick Lamar is known for calling out his rap peers in his lyrics. His “Control” verse was talked about for weeks after he name dropped all of the big names in hip-hop for better or for worse. On his new track, “Hood Politics” he mentions Killer Mike in a very positive way. “”Critics mant to mention that they miss when hip hop was rappin’. Motherf**ker if you did, then Killer Mike’d be platinum,” he rapps. Killer Mike responded graciously on Twitter.

Check out a track from Killer Mike’s latest project, Run The Jewels.

Sufjan Stevens’ “All For Myself” – Instrumental Sampled In “Hood Politics”

One of the most surprising samples on the album is Sufjan Stevens’ “All For Myself.” The instrumental is quite subtle but very beautiful.

Smoky Robinson’s “Tears of A Clown” – Song Name Mentioned in “How Much A Dollar Cost”

Ronald Isley of The Isley Brothers (sampled below) has a beautiful verse on the song “How Much A Dollar Cost” where he mentions the song “Tears of a Clown.” Trust us, you know this song.

Busta Rhymes’ “Woo Hah!” – Song Name Mentioned in “Complexion (A Zulu Love)”

It was a real pleasure to hear a female voice appear on To Pimp A Butterfly. Rapsody is a North Carolina rapper who is featured on “Complexion (A Zulu Love)”. Her verse is full of pop culture references but one that stood out to us was a shout out to the Busta Rhymes song “Woo Hah!” in the lyric, “Light don’t mean you smart, bein’ dark don’t make you stupid and frame of mind for them bustas, ain’t talkin’ ‘Woo Hah!'”

The Isley Brothers’ “That Lady” – Sampled in “i”

By this point, most Kendrick fans know about this sample. “i” was the first single off of the album and the sample of The Isley Brothers’ “That Lady” plays a really prominent role in the song. Ronald Isley even appears in the video for “i” watching Kendrick dance.