Empowerment and Protest in Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp a Butterfly"
Bachelor Thesis from the year 2017 in the subject African Studies - African diaspora, grade: 1,7, University of Bremen (Department of Language and Literature), course: Cultural Studies, language: English, abstract: The research implies the following: The lyrical content, and the specific use of vernacular, poetics and musical style in Kendrick Lamar's 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly highlight a tripartite development towards an empowered African-American identity in the form of Lamar's personal journey, which is achieved by juxtaposing several binary themes which are comprised of a dual perspective at interrelated subjects which are all tied to the two overarching concepts of protest and empowerment. Therefore, it is the aim of this research paper to investigate Lamar's creative expression in To Pimp a Butterfly with a focus on the vernacular, poetics, and musical style, as well as exploring patterns to be found in the lyrical content and the two spoken word poems of the album representative of 1) interlinked binary relations and 2) tripartite developmental stages towards empowerment.
The gathered results are based on a deconstruction of aspects of vernacular, poetics and musical style as well as a break-down of themes in the lyrical content, including the two poems and, subsequently, tying them to a previously developed concept which outlines internal and external protest as fundamental for empowerment, thereby connecting it directly with DuBois's theory of double consciousness and the tripartite yearnings.
Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly is a personal journey. It's an embodiment of a personal struggle which resonates an internal conflict brought on by external forces. And, above all, it's a blueprint for a possible path to empowerment. But how is empowerment achieved? While this question will certainly not be answered, attempts will be made to outline Lamar's approach by tying it directly to W.E.B DuBois's theory on double consciousness and even further representing a possible exemplification of what is commonly referred to as the tripartite yearnings by DuBois's critics.
Lamar's approach is innovative and attracts young people. His imploration to engage in introspection has, as such, not yet been discussed, especially in the study of hip hop, but align closely with Tricia Rose's hopes for hip hop as expressed in her 2010 book The Hip Hop Wars.