Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, Terrace Martin, Rapsody, Sounwave, & other architects of “TPAB” tell the story of how the album was made.
Kendrick Lamar is up for a whopping Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year. The Compton rapper sat down with the Grammys along with Thundercat, Terrace Martin, Rapsody, Sounwave, and other architects of To Pimp a Butterfly to given an oral history of how the album came together.
Here are few highlights from the interview:
On the inspiration for the album:
Sounwave: I remember he took a trip to Africa and something in his mind just clicked. For me, that’s when this album really started.
Lamar: I felt like I belonged in Africa. I saw all the things that I wasn’t taught. Probably one of the hardest things to do is put [together] a concept on how beautiful a place can be, and tell a person this while they’re still in the ghettos of Compton. I wanted to put that experience in the music.
“MixedByAli” (co-engineer/mixer): [Lamar is] a sponge. He incorporated everything that was going on [in Africa] and in his life to complete a million-piece puzzle.
On the making of “King Kunta”:
Sounwave: When we first did “King Kunta,” the beat was the jazziest thing ever with pretty flutes. Kendrick said he liked it but to “make it nasty.” He referenced a DJ Quik record with Mausberg [“Get Nekkid”] and he told me what to do with it. I added different drums to it, simplified it, got Thundercat on the bass, and it was a wrap.
Thundercat” That strong-ass rhythm with banging drums and bass was created by me and Sounwave watching “Fist Of The North Star” while eating Yoshinoya. It’s funny because a lot of this album was created eating Yoshinoya and watching cartoons. It was so funky and so black.
On finding George Clinton:
Lamar: “I had to find George Clinton in the woods, man. He was somewhere in the South and I had to fly out to him. We got in the studio and just clicked. Rocking with him took my craft to another level and that pushed me to make more records like that for the album.”
On the album title:
Lamar: “The title grasped the entire concept of the record. [I wanted to] break down the idea of being pimped in the industry, in the community and out of all the knowledge that you thought you had known, then discovering new life and wanting to share it.”
On the concept behind “Complexion”:
Martin: “We were listening to a lot of J Dilla, Jimi Hendrix and Lalah Hathaway, who’s on that song too. Robert Glasper played piano over it. Me and Sounwave heard the piano but wanted another beat so we called Lalah Hathaway and got into the spirit of J Dilla. Then Rapsody got to it and murdered it.”
Lamar: “The idea was to make a record that reflected all complexions of black women. There’s a separation between the light and the dark skin because it’s just in our nature to do so, but we’re all black. This concept came from South Africa and I saw all these different colors speaking a beautiful language.”
On the ‘conscious rapper’ label:
Lamar: “If you speak on this kind of subject matter you’re labeled a conscious rapper. I don’t even know [if] that word conscious can only exist in one field of music. Everybody is conscious. That’s a gift from God to put it in my heart to continue to talk about this because that’s how I’m feeling at the moment. The message is bigger than the artist.”
The Grammys air February 15th at 8 ET.