What’s been said about Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly has most assuredly already been said: Complex. Ambitious. Avant-garde. There are days when I can listen to it on end; other days, the weight of it makes me turn to something else.
There is one track, however, that I can ALWAYS listen to: Kendrick’s “For Sale? (Interlude)”.
Lucy is all the [things] that I was thinking of that I know can be detrimental to not only me but the people around me, and still be tempted by them. That’s some scary s–t. It’s like looking at a bullet inside of a gun, knowing you can kill yourself with it, but you’re still picking it up and playing with it.
– Kendrick Lamar, as quoted in the Guardian
When I was in college, I struggled to make it to Sunday service. Part laziness, part distance – it just wasn’t a priority for me. That being said, there were days that I needed a word from God. When I was in those moods, I didn’t turn to typical gospel or Christian hymns – I put on John Coltrane’s Love Supreme. His ode to his higher power spoke to me (and still does) in a way that no gospel recording ever has.
Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly isn’t a Love Supreme, but “For Sale?”, speaks to me in a similar way. A morality play in verse, “For Sale?” tells of the temptations of “Lucy” (short for Lucifer) and the promises of material things and the fight to stay true to yourself. Its a struggle I believe we all face and I love Kendrick for being so transparent about it.
“Alright” and “These Walls” rightly get called out as great cuts on To Pimp a Butterfly; I just want “For Sale?” to get it’s requisite shine too.
Note: I typically made small edits as I posts from my old blog to this platform. Usually, these tweaks are limited to spelling mistakes and additional footnotes. However, as I made edits to a series of posts about the Great American Songbook, I realized that I forgot to publish a post. So, here’s the final post in my top-10 countdown of my favorite GAS songs.
Duke Ellington originally recorded “In a Sentimental Mood” in 1935. Multiple artists have covered the track over the years: my favorite rendition is the 1962 version recorded by Ellington and John Coltrane. This version shows shows a delicate and sensitive side to Trane’s brilliance. Duke Ellington is a master on the keys; this is a perfect pairing of two musical geniuses.
Shame on me: I didn’t hear this track until 1997’s Love Jones was released. For a self-professed jazz aficionado, that’s way too late.
Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote “My Favorite Things” for the Sound of Music. While Julie Andrews’ version is well known, I would argue that Coltrane’s 1961 cut is just as, if not more, well-known and significant. Released on Coltrane’s same-named album, “My Favorite Things” continues the modal exploration from Coltrane’s work on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. In addition to the modal rendition, “My Favorite Things” is also notable for introducing us to Coltrane’s work on the soprano saxophone. His solo, along with McCoy Tyner’s piano work, is a work of art.
I was browsing Barnes and Nobles sometime during the summer of 1997 when I came across the simply-titled John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman album. I knew this was an LP that I had to own after hearing the duo cover Bill Strayhorn’s “Lush Life”. I still get goosebumps listening to it. No other version (not even Trane’s solo take) can compare to this recording. Their take is, simply put, the definitive recording of this classic.