Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly has all the markings of a classic, and now it has its first official music video. (Not counting a different version of "i".) "King Kunta," directed by Canadian filmmaker Director X, is a love letter to Lamar's native Compton, CA. Surrounded by friends, Lamar raps through the record's closest thing to a feel-good track in a variety of locations around the city. He dances at the Compton Fashion Center, in a parking lot, and at a convenience store, and the mood is one of total celebration.
Butterfly is a feast for the ears, but it's the sort of epic that can feel foreboding. "King Kunta" is the place to start. It's catchy — one of the few songs on the record with a repeating chorus. And it has an appealing swagger to it: when Kendrick raps "Life ain't shit but a fat vagina," you hear echoes of his earlier "Backseat Freestyle," with its giddy promise to fuck the world. But Kunta Kinte was of course a slave, a man whose foot was cut off to prevent him from escaping from the plantation. Even as Kendrick brags about rising "from a peasant to a prince to a motherfucking king," he knows he's crippled by a country whose inattention to its founding prejudices is tragic and deadly. (Not to mention inexcusable.) The tension at the heart of the song runs straight through To Pimp A Butterfly, making it an obvious choice for a lead single. The video may cast Lamar firmly as the king, but that complicated self-doubt is still there too, if you're listening for it.