News

South Africa's Influence On Kendrick Lamar's ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’

Ahead of its 11 GRAMMY nominations, we look back at the many South African influences on Kendrick Lamar's classic album.

To Pimp A Butterfly album cover.


Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly was hailed as a classic as soon as it dropped. The 16-song record follows the Compton rapper through several poignant explorations of race issues and social injustice, backed by ambitious jazz, retro funk & soul production.

One thing not many people are aware of though, is its inspiration.

Kendrick’s mentioned that his first trip to Africa— a 2014 visit to South Africa during which he travelled to Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town—was a huge influence on TPAB.

Ahead of the album’s 11 GRAMMY nominations this weekend, including nods for Album Of The Year and Best Rap Album, we look back at the South African influences on K. Dot’s unparalleled album and musical style.

“I Felt Like I Belonged In Africa”

“I remember he took a trip to Africa and something in his mind just clicked. For me, that's when this album really started” —Sounwave, To Pimp A Butterfly co-producer.

In a new interview with the GRAMMYs, Kendrick and his TPAB collaborators go off on the effect the 2014 trip to South Africa had on the album.

“I felt like I belonged in Africa,” says Lamar. “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.”

“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.”

The Ghost of Mandela

“You wanna love like Nelson, you wanna be like Nelson. You wanna walk in in his shoes but you peace-making seldom”

TPAB’s 12-minute-long closing track “Mortal Man” sees Kendrick dropping several mentions and aspirations towards the spirit of Nelson Mandela.

The track also samples a drum pattern from Fela Kuti‘s “I No Get Eye for Back,” off 1975’s Alagbon Close. The direct sample comes from South Carolina tenor saxophonist Houston Person’s 1977 cover of the Fela track.

“The ghost of Mandela, hope my flows they propel it”

A Black Lives Matter Anthem Inspired By South Africa

In an interview with MTV, Kendrick reveals that “Alright”—a song that’s become an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement and sang across protests against police killings of blacks—was also inspired by his time in South Africa.

The “We Gon’ Be Alright” chant was sparked from witnessing people’s struggles in the country. "They struggle ten times harder and were raised crazier than... I was," Kendrick mentions. "Going out there really inspired me. I wrote a lot of records out there. Just going to South Africa and being able to move around out there like I did. That was a turning point."”

“How Much A Rand Cost”

TPAB’s “How Much A Dollar Cost” also follows a “true story” set in South Africa, he tells MTV. In it, a homeless man “who only [speaks] Zulu” asks him for 10 rand. Kendrick denies him thinking he’s looking for drug or booze money. Then, after a wave of guilt and rapping bars about the selfishness of his success, the homeless man reveals himself to be God.

“Untitled 2” & Cape Town

And finally, last month, to cement the influence of South Africa on his current sound, Kendrick shouted out “Cape Town” several times during his performance of unreleased track “Untitled 2” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Popular
Photo credits: Deeds Art

Tems Is Just Doing Her Thang In New Music Video 'Crazy Tings'

The Nigerian songstress is hell bent on taking over your summer playlist and it's getting harder to resist.

It has been a fantastic year for Tems. The Nigerian singer, producer, and songwriter achieved a platinum record for eternal banger Essence, her collaboration with fellow Nigerian superstar Wizkid, an MTV EMA nomination for Best African Artist, a billion worldwide video views, and over 350 million audio streams. Not to mention featuring on Canadian rapper Drake's blowout album Certified Lover Boy, the singer has also sold out every show she's booked.

The release of Tems's sophomore EP If Orange Was a Place solidified her place amongst the greats and it was received with gusto by fans and international audiences. A month after the release the Afrobeats singer has graced fans with a sultry music video to go along with equally as tantalizing lead single Crazy Tings. Conceptualized by the multitalented Tems, and directed by UAX, the music video follows a sensual Tems as she sings about needing space from a lying partner.

International audiences continue to rave over the songstress, with Tems delivering an impressive US TV debut on late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! this month. Essence continues to top international charts. While becoming the official song of the summer, the track peaked on the Billboard 100 Top 10, becoming the most Shazamed song in the United States and was remixed by Canadian musical heavyweight Justin Bieber, becoming the first song written by Nigerian artists to hit No.1 on Urban Radio.

Tems has been producing consistent hits since her debut in September 2020, and a year later, the singer's immense talent is securing her reputation as a world-class superstar.

Check out Tem's music video for single 'Crazy Tings' below

Tems - Crazy Tings (Official Video) www.youtube.com

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

Eswatini Is Trying To Dethrone Africa's Last Standing King

Africa's last absolute monarchy is being challenged by pro-democracy protests and an army of youths ready to fight back.