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5 Unsung Heroes of Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp A Butterfly"

Much to everyone’s surprise, Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album “To Pimp A Butterfly” was released Sunday evening on iTunes, 8 days before its March, 23 scheduled release.  Taken off iTunes and then returned mid-afternoon on Monday, the album has already raised many eyebrows and been subject to speculation of its early release.

It was speculated that Dot would take his sophomore album to a whole new realm of hip-hop music and he did not disappoint with an incredible display of funk, soul, live instrumentation, free form jazz and everything in between.

While we are plenty familiar with “The Blacker The Berry” producer Boi-1da and West Coast giant Snoop Dogg, lets set the precedent for the rest of the talented musicians who we may not be as familiar with.

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Anna Wise:

While the name Anna Wise may not register with fans of Kendrick Lamar and TDE right away, one listen to Ab-Soul’s “Double Standard” or Kendrick’s “Cartoons And Cereal” will reassure a familiar voice.  Featured on “Institutionalized” and “These Walls,” Wise has cemented her name and voice in TDE history with the work she has put in so far.

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Thundercat:

Working with artists such as Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu and most recently SZA (“Sobriety“), Thundercat is featured on countless tracks of TPAB.  Since the release of his 2013 “Apocalypse” it seems as though the TDE camp has done all they can to keep the musical mastermind in their sights for in-house production and instrumentation.

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Terrace Martin:

Ah man, what more can be said about Terrace Martin?  From the smooth, jazz-saxophone production on Kendrick’s “Ab-Soul Outro” (my favorite piece of Terrace Martin work) on Section.80 to his influence on West Coast giants Snoop Dogg and Warren G. Terrace can be heard on “For Free?” and “These Walls.”  One can only imagine though that Terrace Martin’s ear for greatness had an incredible impact on this whole album.

Sounwave:

It’s impossible not to mention Sounwave when it comes to K.Dot and TDE.  The producer of some of Kendrick’s biggest hits such as “Hol’ Up,” “A.D.H.D.” and “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” Sounwave is one of the most influential producers in Kendrick’s illustrious career.  Wave takes over production on “King Kunta,” one of the most talked about tracks on the album and “so unapologetically black and amazing” according to Pharrell.

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Bilal:

Known for his work in neo-soul music, the Philadelphia born artist familiarized himself with the likes of The Roots and Erykah Badu while forming his own sound.  Working with Dr. Dre and J Dilla on his debut album “1st Born Second,” Bilal is someone who knows his way around a complete sounding album.

While I will in no shape or form attempt to review “To Pimp A Butterfly” after only five front to back listens, I will say that the live instrumentation and behind the scenes work put in by the artists listed above is unmatched by any recent hip-hop release.  If you haven’t yet given the album a listen you can download it on iTunes and stream on Spotify.  Let us know what you think of Kendrick’s Sophomore effort and which of these unsung heroes impressed you the most.

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