Kendrick Lamar Is The Change Tupac Wanted To See In The World
I'm not saying I'm gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.
Tupac always knew his purpose in life was to make a difference. He also knew he'd have only a little time to do it.
In a classic 1994 interview with MTV, it was almost like he was trying to tell us something. Or maybe, he was challenging anybody to step up.
Tupac was not only the voice of the streets; he was the voice of change and actually taking action to make society better.
Through powerful lyrics, Pac always represented the struggle, societal flaws and the hope to one day see everybody overcome them.
He also represented thug life, gang banging and California. That lifestyle eventually caught up with him and turned him into an icon instead of a living legend, but his mark was made.
While he's been gone over 18 years now, his message lives on within the very youth he inspired during his time here.
No one has been more inspired by Tupac than TDE leader and Compton-native Kendrick Lamar.
K-Dot surprised everyone by releasing his second studio album, To Pimp A Butterfly, in the middle of the night a week before its scheduled drop.
Much like Tupac, Kendrick Lamar is that voice of change and he's respected as an artist in an age where commercialism is the norm and selling out is just considered buying in.
There are many similarities between the two artists, too. From their lyrical content to ideologies about race, it's their genuine desire to make the world better that's the most distinct.
Of course, Kendrick doesn't have any gang affiliations, but Tupac had to live that life in order to finally get America's attention. Lamar's just carrying on the torch lit by injustice and hope.
The final 12-minute track on the album, "Mortal Man," features a conversation between Kendrick and Tupac.
Using a 1994 interview with a Swedish radio station as a sample, Kendrick connects with Pac about how they could make change a real thing.
As corny as it sounds, Kendrick and Tupac nearly sound like they're coming from the same brain. The only difference is their age difference.
At the end of the song and their conversation, Kendrick recites a poem for Tupac, explaining the album's title:
The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it. It's only job is to eat or consume everything around it in order to protect itself from this Maad City. While consuming its environment, the caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive. One thing it notices is how much the world shuns him but praises the butterfly. The butterfly represents the talent, the thoughtfulness and the beauty within the caterpillar. But having a harsh outlook on life, the caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak and figures out a way to pimp it to its own benefits. Already surrounded by this Maad City, the caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon which institutionalizes him. He can no longer see past his own thoughts, he's trapped. While trapped inside these walls certain ideas take root. Such as 'goin home and bringing back new concepts to this Maad City.' The result: Wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant. Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations that the caterpillar never considered, ending a lifetime of struggle. I know the caterpillar and the butterfly are different. They are one in the same.
Kendrick's new album isn't what you'd expect from an artist trying to get on the radio today, and it's going to be interesting to see if he can cause a shift in that atmosphere.
Creating real music to inspire real change for real people is what Tupac was setting out to do before he lost his life.
Tupac always inspired people to be real with themselves.
Taking an independent approach in the music industry only works when it's not being forced, and very rarely does it receive approval from major labels and executives.
Kendrick's leadoff single on his sophomore album, "i," might sound like the most commercialized offering from one of the true new leaders in West Coast hip-hop, but it's not.
The song and video for "i" hardly seems like a fit for this time in music.
But, behind the radio-ready tempo and catchy chorus, there's a deeper message that's meant to help those struggling.
In an interview with Hot 97, Kendrick explained why he wrote "i." He said,
I wrote a record for the homies that's in the penitentiary right now, and I also wrote a record for these kids that come up to my shows with these slashes on they wrists, saying they don't want to live no more.
In another recent interview with XXL Mag, Kendrick spoke about his unwanted fame and pressure of being an example for others.
He admitted many fans have told him his music saved their relationships, careers and in a lot of instances, their lives.
He also explained the very important cover art.
In an interview with HipHop DX, Kendrick explained,
Where I'm from, there's a lot of gang culture and things like that, so instead of throwing on up gang signs, which we used to, I put a Blood and I put a Crip together and we're throwing up hearts.
You can call it political rap or ghetto gospel, but rappers like Tupac and Kendrick Lamar could actually call themselves artists. Instead of using the rap game for fame and money, they set out to make an impact on others.
It's easy to get caught up in the life, and money always changes people... But for better or worse?
As much as Kendrick fights for what is right, materialism will always outweigh the common sense that men like he and Tupac have/had.
He understands some things can never be undone, and things like poverty and racism are struggles that will have to be endured until the end of time.
The album cover for To Pimp A Butterfly says it all:
A group of black kids sitting up on the White House lawn, drinking champagne and holding stacks of hundreds over an unconscious white man (presumably a judge), is a bold message with a million meanings.
But, what it might most represent is the American dream and what it's become.
In the song "The Blacker the Berry," Kendrick isn't only worried about racism inflicted by the structure of our country and how it was built, he's bothered by the self-inflicted racism within the African-American community.
So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street? / When gang banging make me kill a n*gga blacker than me? / Hypocrite!
Is Kendrick Lamar the spark for change Tupac was looking for? In a neverending battle, he's just the one to keep that flame alive and eventually pass it down to another.