Kendrick Lamar‘s album To Pimp A Butterfly has been widely recognized as an instant classic–a standout in a year of standout albums and a momentous change in the direction of hip-hop, funk, black music–however you choose to can’t-categorize-it. We knew almost as soon as TPAB floated to earth that we needed to know more about it than was in the liner notes. This was a gamechanger, a moment in time that demanded a deeper form of documentation–the ‘making of’, the Ken Burns treatment, the DVD Extraz!
In our music nerd mindgarden we fantasized about having Bilal, Flying Lotus, Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, James Fauntleroy, George Clinton and Anna Wise of Sonnymoon over to the Okayplayer HQ to gather around an actual roundtable and regale us with stories of the Butterfly’s various stages of life, while passing a tallboy of St. Ides that had been blessed by the pope. It quickly became apparent that such an assembly of quite possibly the most talented musical avengers out here in the Okayplayer multiverse was neither practical nor advisable (“the day the music stopped?”). But we nevertheless began tracking down these players of instrument one by one, and although FlyLo had already spoken up and Thundercat and Dr. Funkenstein were unavailable (we assume they were shopping for muppet-fur boots together, somewhere in New Zealand–and would you want it any other way, really?) we did eventually collect the behind the scenes goods and TPAB origin stories from the other names on that illustrious list.
We present the results here today, in honor of the good kid/mad rapper’s birthday, transcribed and edited into portions digestible by us ordinary mortals, who nevertheless want to partake in the mysteries of TPAB–Happy Birthday Kendrick!
It’s all gold, really, but it’s worth identifying one or two of the tidbits contained herein: Item: Rob Glasper has an unreleased Kendrick verse sitting on his hard drive, recorded for but never included on his Black Radio 2 project. Item: There is indeed a studio version of Bilal and Kendrick’s “Untitled” collaboration…somewhere. Item: The ghosts of Tupac and Miles Davis were very much involved. We begin our story with one Robert Glasper, who spoke to us first:
In a way, everything really started back in 1996, when I was in high school. I was picked to play in a national all-star high school jazz band and they took a few kids from different parts of the country and put everyone in Vail, Colorado for a week with mentors and we did a big concert. It was all these different kids from different high schools from across the country, and one of these kids was Terrace Martin—he was playing jazz saxophone. That’s how I met Terrace, who is one of the main producers on To Pimp A Butterfly and good kid, m.A.A.d. city.
Much later, when I was signed to Blue Note—fast forward!–I do Black Radio, and Terrace calls me up and says, Hey, I was at Snoop [Dogg]’s crib and we got into his car, he turned the car on and your album was playing in the CD player. I was like, Shut up. And he said, Nah dude, Snoop’s bumping your shit! It was crazy!