It’s no overstatement to say that Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp A Butterfly, released in 2015, is one of the most significant releases of the 21st century so far.
Even if the passage of time renders it a footnote, with little influence on the development of the music yet to come in the next 100 years, it will always be one of the greatest hip hop albums ever made. That’s how much I rate it.
“These Walls” is typical of the awe inspiring splendour of the album. The song at first glance is a litany of sexual innuendos, but it’s a deep song. “If the walls could talk” is a saying people use to say “there’s a lot that’s gone on in this place”. The walls are ultimately the walls within his own mind holding him back, rather the physical walls of a prison.
The production is epic, a funk masterpiece that harks back to George Clinton and Parliament. The guest vocals by Bilal and Anna Wise embellish the Acid Jazz feel of the track and inject a strong soulful element.
The video is an achievement itself; it’s certainly not a lazy attempt to slap visuals on the song, there’s a real artistic flair to add colour to the story told in the song by Kendrick.
“These Walls” won a Grammy in 2016 for Best Rap/Sung Performance.
Further adding to the funk credentials of the song, the bass is played by Thundercat, who also appears on other songs on the album.
More than Hip-Hop, more than Funk, more than Soul.