Amongst all the sales and accolades, Kendrick Lamar‘s personal relationship with his landmark record To Pimp A Butterfly is still a complicated one. Lamar has been hesitant to perform many album tracks live, only recently adding singles “King Kunta” and “Alright” to his setlists during his summer tour schedule. Hot 97 DJ and host Peter Rosenberg interviewed Lamar about that fact, and pressed him to share a few stories about the making of his landmark LP. Lamar was all too happy to oblige is old friend.
“We all listened like ‘What the fuck is this??'” Lamar laughed, reminiscing on his TDE crew’s group listens to To Pimp A Butterfly’s final draft form, just before it was released. The MC acknowledged that it takes a few times to digest the record, and that it’s not at all an easy listen. “I knew it was one of those things–I didn’t really mind it taking time to digest for the listener. As we put it all together, for me, listening back, it was a whole ‘nother experience.”
When conversation moved on to the gliding funk of “These Walls,” Lamar smirked before admitting that the Bilal and Anna Wise-assisted track is his favorite on the entire album. “It’s a record that I always wanted to make, but never knew how to make. I wasn’t in a place to do it.” Lamar also remarked that the album’s first single “i” is the type of song he wouldn’t have been able to make in the past. Much of what listeners treasure in To Pimp A Butterfly is Kendrick’s charting of own still- exploding talents.
At other moments in the interview, Rosenberg stressed that he sees the album as a piece of socially-engaged art at the level of Do The Right Thing or the catalog of Public Enemy. Kendrick confirmed that more album cuts will get performed live. “I Just wanna have it right for the fans and for the people that really appreciate this album…I gotta take that energy that was in the studio and put it on stage the right way. Making this album and having these kids actually understand it and live by it and love it, that’s a trip for me.” Watch the full interview below.