In the short amount of time Kendrick Lamar‘s brilliant new album To Pimp A Butterfly has seen the light of day, it’s utterly confounded the collective consciousness of hip-hop. The aesthetic crystallized for this revoltionary record is culled from not-so-new sources, the far-reaching depths of hard-grit soul and future-flinging jazz among the last six or seven decades of black music. The first 40 seconds of the raging, euphoric hypno-funk that is the opening cut, “Wesley’s Theory” (featuring P-Funk‘s George Clinton and bass virtuoso Thundercat), recycles 40 seconds of Boris Gardiner’s “Every Nigger Is A Star,” written and released for a Jamaican film of the same name in 1974. Then a deep, brawny voice yells, “Hit me!” and the roiling, body-inhabiting chaos ensues. The dysmorphic delirium evoked on “Wesley’s Theory”‘s production (credited to Flying Lotus, Ronald “Flippa” Colson, and Thundercat) is embodied by the sound of Lamar’s voice, the stark sensuality of his harmonized overdubbing as he sings, “At first I did love you/ But now I just want to fuck.”
The track takes on big themes in subversive ways, admonishing the pervasive reign of American capitalism and its consequent symbiosis with mainstream rap culture. The question of “What do you want? A house or a car? Forty acres and a mule, a piano, a guitar?” is met with the self-antagonizing response, “Anything, see, my name is Uncle Sam on your dollar/ Motherfucker you can live at the mall.” The song’s title, and last line (“And everything you buy, taxes will deny/ I’ll Wesley Snipes your ass before 35”) refers to actor Wesley Snipes, who was jailed from 2010 to 2013 after a hailstorm of tax fraud charges in the early 2000s. The US government claims Snipes employed “tax protester theory” in an attempt to get out of the charges.
Read a Tweet from Flying Lotus about the creative process behind “Wesley’s Theory” and listen to “These Walls (feat. Bilal, Anna Wise, & Thundercat), along with a full-length To Pimp A Butterfly Spotify stream, below.
When I played him that beat he asked me who I imagined on it. I laughed and said @george_clinton . I never thought it would actually happen
— FLYLO (@flyinglotus) March 16, 2015