Can you name a Kendrick Lamar track? When you listen to the radio on your way to work, you probably don't hear him, but that doesn't mean he's not well-known. The 27-year-old rapper from Compton recites lyrics with an anxious tone that gives him an agitated but resolved aura. As a kid, he enjoyed rappers like Dr. Dre, who is also from Compton. His lyrics, often explicit and not radio-friendly, seem to be derived from the artery of influence that Dre and Snoop Dogg inherited. The music behind the lyrics is sometimes driving, as it was in Dre's heyday, and sometimes soulful and jazzy, having a softer feel than rap of the 90s and 00s. That's the case with his newest album, "To Pimp a Butterfly"; and no, having a softer feel doesn't mean the music has a softer impact. The album is full of heavy subject matter. Think recent D'Angelo and Run the Jewels.
The album was released early on iTunes and Spotify, due to a mishap that was allowed to happen by Interscope, Lamar's distributing label. However, the mistake had at least one positive result, for the label if no one else. The album took the number one spot for first-day streams on Spotify, outdoing names like Drake and Beyoncé. Songs from To Pimp a Butterfly were streamed 9.6 Million times on March 16th, only including complete songs streamed from beginning to end. Kendrick will beat Drake's first-week record if his momentum stays steady. Spotify is still the only place you'll hear the explicit album. iTunes and Google Play are hosting the censored version.
Lamar was inspired by Dr. Dre, but he also worked with him on the production of his new album. There have been rumors of a new Dre album circulating for over a decade. If it ever makes it to Spotify, I would expect a new first-day record. For better or for worse, welcome to the era of the digital stream.