Kendrick Lamar Reminisces On How His South African Trip Influenced 'To Pimp A Butterfly'
Kendrick's collaborators, as well as K-Dot himself, provide context for the seminal project in Alex Pappademas' show. The rapper discusses how deeply influential a trip to South Africa was for TPAB and for him in the latest installment. During the trip, he traveled to Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Robben Island, which where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.
“It was vital,” Dave Free said. “I don’t think the album even would have been what it would have been if he didn’t go get that experience. … He called me one night, he was like, ‘Bro, I just went through a village.’ He’s like, ‘Dog, I took my shirt off.’ He was [like], ‘I took my shirt off and I was just with the people.’ He was like, ‘They were just hugging me, they was just hugging me. And they was just loving me.’ And he’s like, ‘I never felt love like that. I never felt that much love in one place. Just love, like the energy of that.’”
Kendrick told Pappademas the story in his own words. “You know [Mandela] was fighting for equality, served 27 years, 18 years in that small little cell, but still kept his mental capacity and still kept his integrity and his enthusiasm to motivate not only himself but the people around him. It inspired me a hundred percent.”
Continuing, he said, “I took that experience and looked within myself for my own experiences. Okay, I come from a background of a neighborhood that wasn’t so much perceived to be great but I can’t let these four corners define who I am or define who my homeboys are.” Kendrick continued, “I took that experience and the whole concept about To Pimp A Butterfly was to share that experience with them. To go back to Compton and to tell them what I’ve learned. … It was me explaining my experiences and what emotions it brought up from that experience. And tell them, ‘Yo it’s something bigger than Compton and where we from.”
As Kendrick told Complex in 2016, after the trip, he felt like he "belonged in Africa" and expressed how "beautiful" the continent is. In 2013, on the day of Mandela's death, he advised fans to pay respect for "researching a small piece of Nelson Mandela's life."
Listen to episode two of the Big Hit Show below.