Bill Banfield is a professor of Africana studies/music and society and director of the Center for Africana Studies and programs at Berklee. An award-winning composer, jazz guitarist, recording artist, and public radio show host, he has authored five books for Scarecrow Press on music, arts, cultural criticism, and history.
After much fuss from and persuasion by many of my students, I decided to take a deeper look at Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. With my first listen in a car riding home, I didn’t like what I heard. It was not just a repulsion of the language and the seemingly thug spirit it seemed to evoke in me, but the language as well and the images inside the CD booklet. I only saw the same dark, twisted, exploited, projected and closed, broken narrative of so many contemporary hip-hop records. But I pushed myself to listen again more deeply with an eye toward the art and arc, and reach of the music.