Kendrick Lamar‘s To Pimp A Butterfly was largely inspired by his 2014 trip to South Africa. Though fans already know this fact, the rapper took some time to provide further context during the latest installment of Alex Pappademas’ “The Big Hit Show.” He particularly shared the way his perspective of life changed after visiting Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.
“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,” he explained.
“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,” he added. “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.’”
TPAB featured artists like Snoop Dogg, James Fauntleroy, Ronald Isley, and Rapsody as well as production credits from Dr. Dre, Thundercat, Boi-1da, Pharrell Williams and more. Released in 2015, it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, later picking up a Grammy for Best Rap Album. To date, the project receives praise from hip hop fans, but it might have never seen the light of day if Kendrick hadn’t gone to South Africa.
“It was vital,” Dave Free said on the Spotify show. “I don’t think the album even would have been what it would have been if he didn’t go get that experience. … He (Kendrick) 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.’