Kendrick Lamar Details The Origins Of “To Pimp A Butterfly” & Why Prince Missed The Cut

In preparation for the 58th Grammy Awards, the Recording Academy’s website published an oral history of this year’s most nominated album. Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore major label effort, To Pimp A Butterfly carries 11 nominations at the February 15 ceremony in Los Angeles, California. Hip-Hop journalist Andreas Hale spoke to K-Dot, Sounwave, Rapsody, and more in compiling a featurette on T.P.A.B.


“I had to find George Clinton in the woods,” admitted Kendrick Lamar surrounding the album’s opener, “Wesley’s Theory.” Flying Lotus playing some Parliament-Funkadelic in the studio, and a beat CD he circulated during the Yeezus Tour reportedly sparked the major album artery. “[George Clinton] 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.”

The article profiles how Kendrick’s travels to Africa and strong doses of P-Funk, Miles Davis, Donald Byrd, and others informed the overall sonic direction of his fourth overall work.

While George Clinton, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, and Ronald Isley’s voices are heard on the platinum effort, another musical icon was also supposed to be there.

“Prince heard the record, loved the record and the concept of the record got us to talking,” said Kendrick Lamar of the Rapsody collaboration “Complexion (A Zulu Love).” Rapsody added that it was her understanding that Prince would be on the album as well. However, plans changed. K-Dot explained, “We got to a point where we were just talking in the studio and the more time that passed we realized we weren’t recording anything. We just ran out of time, it’s as simple as that.” The song released without Prince.

Related: Rapsody Reacts To Grammy Nomination & Confirms Guest On Next Album (Video Interview)

The series of interviews touch on Black Lives Matter. “One of the biggest moments was seeing kids marching to “Alright.” We cried like babies because we were doing something,” said album contributor Terrace Martin. Kendrick’s mixer and engineer, Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, also said that a trip to Africa caused Lamar to scrap “two or three albums worth of material.”

Ultimately, Kendrick brings it back to Tupac. The Compton, California native reportedly watched the Hip-Hop superstar when shooting “California Love” nearby. “When Tupac was here and I saw him as a 9-year-old, I think that was the birth of what I’m doing today,” said Kendrick of the Death Row Records icon. “From the moment that he [died], I knew the things he was saying would eventually be carried on through someone else.” Powerfully, the Top Dawg Entertainment star now believes that vessel is himself.

Read: The Oral History Of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly by Andreas Hale.

As a note, To Pimp A Butterfly (and good kid, m.A.A.d city are two of the Top 30 Hip-Hop albums of all-time voted by Ambrosia For Heads readers). With two wild card votes coming, the finals begin next week.

Related: Kendrick Lamar Pens Letter Expressing Why He Feels Chosen To Lead