Words are important to Kendrick Lamar and he chooses them carefully. So when the Compton, California MC announced that the album’s title was going to be To Pimp a Butterfly, you just knew that the LP was going to layered and rich. But before he landed on the thought-provoking title, Kendrick almost went in another direction entirely.
On Tuesday (Mar. 31), K. Dot sat with MTV News at the W New York – Downtown. During the interview Lamar broke down several tracks from To Pimp a Butterfly, but before we started Kendrick revealed to us the album’s original title: Tu Pimp a Caterpillar.
Kendrick was impressed when he saw a group of journalists from DeadEndHipHop.com stumble upon the title during a roundtable discussion about Butterfly, which was posted online this past Friday.
“That was the original name and they caught it because the abbreviation was Tupac, Tu.P.A.C,” Lamar told us.
The title and the Tupac connection is significant because, on the album’s last track, “Mortal Man,” Lamar “interviewed” the late rap icon using some studio effects.
He has often spoken on the influence that ’Pac had on his life, but somewhere during the LP’s creation, he decided to switch things up.
“Me changing it to Butterfly, I just really wanted to show the brightness of life and the word pimp has so much aggression and that represents several things,” he explained. “For me, it represents using my celebrity for good. Another reason is, not being pimped by the industry through my celebrity.”
To Pimp a Butterfly is heavy. On the album, Kendrick opens up about his bouts with depression, the death of close friends, temptation, salvation and the guilt that he feels for making it out of Compton, while his loved ones are still fighting to survive.
“For me, it’s so much of a spiritual process in making an album,” Kendrick said. “I gotta really feel connected to the music, I gotta feel connected to what I’m talking about. And that can drain you, because you’re pulling all these different emotions out.”
Lamar says he conceptualized the album while he was touring to promote his 2012 major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d. city all the way up until 2014. He didn’t get a chance to buckle down and record till months later.
“You’re grabbing all these different experiences around the world and all these conversation pieces — you almost have to reenact that because the time I got inspiration I probably was on the road,” he said, saying that he always had the TPAB concept even if he didn’t have the album name. “I knew that was going to be the concept, I didn’t know if that was going to be the title.”