For the past three days, I've been wrestling with To Pimp A Butterfly like we were in a cage match for the championship belt and Kendrick was winning. His depth, artistry, and talent have choke slammed me through the cage, but I'm determined to get back up. I'm going to understand this album inside and out if it kills me. Truly knowing this album means more than being able to recite every line to "i" though. If you really want to know and appreciate an album as much as possible, you have to look at all the people involved; not just the guy whose name is on the front.
Call me old-fashioned, but liner notes fascinate me. However, in this day and age, where labels send whole albums through a series of interconnected computers that spans the entire world, uploading them (by accident?) to a virtual store where people can then buy it while sitting on the toilet, they have become a lost art. If ever there was an album that needed liner notes, this is it.
Similar to my investigation into the 93 people named on Cole's "Note To Self," I have spent the last three days diving down the rabbit hole that is the credits on To Pimp A Butterfly. I kicked the tires on my internet stalking skills to find out about every single person who received a credit on To Pimp A Butterfly (at least everyone credited on Wikipedia). I'm not talking about just FlyLo, Thundercat, and George Clinton. I mean everybody—all 71 of them. Songwriters, additional vocalists, even some samples; some of these will blow your fucking mind!
Your crash course on To Pimp a Butterfly starts now.
Credit: Writing credit "King Kunta"
You may know him better as just "Ahmad," the guy behind, "Back In The Day." Looks like Kendrick sampled his "We Want The Funk" so he gets a credit. Nathan actually knows him, so he reached out and got this quote because journalism:
"I got a call about a sample clearance last week, I didn't know the turnaround would be so quick. I'm grateful for the publishing check lol. Kendrick is the perfect emcee to use my music". - Ahmad
Imagine finding out Kendrick is paying you to use your music...and you thought you were excited about the album? Also, check out his more recent material.
Credit: Production credit on "Blacker The Berry"
Alexander Izquierdo is part of The Monsters and the Strangerz, a production/engineering/songwriting team who has worked from everyone from Big Sean (multiple times) and Ice Cube to Selena Gomez and 98 Degrees. You'll see The Monsters pop up again later. On the solo tip, he goes by Eskeerdo.
Credits: Vocal credits on "Institutionalized", "These Walls", "Wesley's Theory", "For Free? (Interlude)","Hood Politics"
Anna Wise is all over Kendrick's discography (see "Real") yet is still relatively unknown. Maybe it's because she is actually part of Sonnymoon and not necessarily a solo artist? Either way, she has a smooth voice that goes nicely with any rapper. Here she is with CunninLynguists.
Credit: Production credit on "Complexion"
Antydote is an in-house producer for TDE. He was all over Isaiah Rashad's Cilvia EP, which was very good.
Credit: Vocal credit on "Wesley's Theory"
Welcome to the world of Ash Riser. Kendrick fucks with him heavy and he was featured on "Ronald Regan Era" and he's crazy talented. He's done rap songs, rock songs, Amy Winehouse covers, and Rae Sremmurd-remixed beats. Also, this song bangs like Jenna Jameson on E.
Credits: Vocal credits on "Institutionalized", "These Walls", "u","For Sale? (Interlude)" "Momma" and "Hood Politics"
Holy credits, Batman! Six songs?! Bilal is all over this album!
Credit: Writing Credit on "Wesley's Theory"
Boris Gardiner's 1973 jam, "Every N***er Is a Star," opens the album. And no, while you might recognize it from this Roots album, it's not the same sample. The Roots used Sly Stone's version. More on Sly later.
Credit: Writing credit on "Blacker The Berry"
Sweet baby Jesus, Brent Kolatalo is a producing/engineering god amongst men. Dude has credits on "Uptown Funk" and "6 God" as well as well Yeezus, College Dropout, Late Registration, 808's, MBDTF, MCHG, MMLP2, Take Care, Lana Del Rey's album, Fishscale, Be and about 700 others. An incredible resume.
Credits: Vocal credits on "Alright" and "i"
Credit: Vocal and Songwriting credit on "i"
Christopher Jasper was one of the members of The Isley Brothers who, as we all know, were sampled on "i". In fact, he wrote most of their songs. He's also pretty damn successful in his own right. Dude has been in the game since the '70s and is still making music; that's not easy to do.
Credits: Songwriting and production credits on "Institutionalized" and "i"
Unless you are his momma, you probably know Columbus as Rahki. At least I hope you know his name because he's a big-time producer with credits on Recovery, GKMC, and Faces just to name a few.
Credit: Vocal credit on "For Free? (Interlude)"
I couldn't find any additional info on Tibbs. "For Free" is her resume.
Credit: Vocal Credit on "i"
Dave is actually the president of TDE and Kendrick's long-time manager (and occasional producer). One time, I emailed him about a concert. He may not necessarily show up in the credits, but his influence on the album goes well beyond "i."
Credit: Vocal Credit on "i"
There is no public info on Downing. It's crazy how someone can just be on Kendrick's album and not even have any social media. I need to know more...
Update: Well shit, this one turned out to be pretty awesome actually. I got an email from someone who knows Downing personally. Turns out, Devon "Yan Yan" Downing is a good friend of Kendrick's from Vanguard Middle School & Centennial High. You may know Yan Yan from the "M.a.a.D City" line, "It was Me, L Boogs and Yan Yan, YG, Lucky ride down Rosecrans." I want cool, famous tapper friends...
Credit: Vocal credit on "Hood Politics" and "i"
Friley played the drums with Kendrick at the Port of Rotterdam North Sea Jazz Festival. Sometimes I creep myself out with my stalking skills.
Donte Perkins (AKA Tae Beast)
Credits: Songwriting and production credit on "Hood Politics"
Part of the Digi-Phonics production collective and another TDE in-house producer, Perkins has been a steady presence on nearly every TDE release since 2010, maybe best known for both "Her Pain" and "His Evils" off #Section80.
Update: A bunch of y'all have told me Donte Perkins is Tae Beast, including...
Credits: Executive producer and vocal credit on "Wesley's Theory"
You know him, you are waiting for his album, and there is a 72% chance you are listening to TPAB with his headphones. He also says, "It's Dre..." in the "phone call" skit to Kendrick, which is kind of hilarious if you really think about it.
Credit: Vocal credit on "i"
Sadly, I have no idea who he is and I couldn't pick him out of the seven million other Edwin Orellana's on the internet. Also, with the live, blues club-like atmosphere of "i," it's not surprising that the tune has the most vocal credits.
Credit: Songwriting credit on "i"
Credit: Songwriting credit "Mortal Man"
Credit: Songwriting credit and feature on "Wesley's Theory"
I'm debating doing an anti-elitist guide to George Clinton so I'm not going to go too in-depth here, but basically, Clinton is the greatest. Mothership Connection is a masterpiece. Without George Clinton, without funk, the landscape of American music would be fundamentally different. If you don't know anything about him, go do your homework. Right now. This article ain't going nowhere.
Credits: Songwriting/vocal credits on "These Walls," "How Much a Dollar Cost" and "Mortal Man"
I'm guessing if you care enough to read the liner notes of an album, you probably know James. Mr. Fauntleroy is the voice of No I.D.'s Cocaine '80s band and can be heard on cuts from Drake and Common. Check out his music here. Obviously, he was featured prominently on "How Much a Dollar Cost," but I didn't catch him on "These Walls" and "Mortal Man," which is surprising because his voice is so recognizable.
Credits: Vocal credits on "Complexion (A Zulu Love)", "You Ain't Gotta Lie (Momma Said)", and "Mortal Man"
Javonte is a TDE affiliate who has worked with Kendrick in the past, so it's not surprising to see him here a few times. If you want to find out more, I encourage you to check out Kevin's article that breaks down everything you need to know.
Credit: Songwriting credit on "Blacker The Berry"
Credit: Vocal credit on "u"
No idea. Maybe she's the housekeeper who interrupts Kendrick's decline into madness?
Credit: Songwriting credit on "King Kunta"
Johnny Burns is better known as Musberg. His record, "Get Nekkid," was interpolated on "King Kunta."
Credits: Songwriting credit on "How Much a Dollar Cost" and a vocal credit on "Wesley's Theory"
For this one, I did some real journalism. I found Josef on Twitter, he had his phone number listed, I called him. He wasn't creeped out at all that some random dude was blowing up his phone. In fact, he gave me a pretty cool story. In addition to a credit on "How Much a Dollar Cost" and "You Ain't Gotta Lie" (although that credit isn't in the official notes), he also has a vocal credit on "Wesley's Theory." That guy talking—that deep, booming voice—is not George Clinton, its actually Josef. Basically, he was in the studio with Terrace, Kendrick, and Sounwave, and he had forgotten his trumpet mute. Kendrick heard his voice and said something along the lines of "I need your voice on my album." So yeah, that's really fucking cool.
Credits: Multiple instrumentals throughout the album.
Like Robert Glasper (scroll down) and Terrace Martin, Washington was part of the "house band" that played live instrumentals throughout the album. Washington is an Inglewood jazz artist who can most prominently be heard playing alongside Martin on the opening of "u."
Credit: Songwriting credit on "The Blacker the Berry"
Remember that guy earlier named Brent who has credits on every album ever? His partner is Ken Lewis. Together, as Katalyst, they helped produce "Blacker The Berry."
Kendrick Lamar Duckworth
Credit: 1,000,000,0000 dopeness credits on To Pimp a Butterfly
You know, I don't think I knew Kendrick's real name is "Kendrick Duckworth." With a name like that Kendrick totally belongs on an episode of DuckTales; Scrooge McDuck's long-lost brother or something.
Credit: Production credit on "Momma"
Credits: Songwriting credit on "Momma" and vocal credits on "Momma," "Complexion," and "The Blacker the Berry"
Lalah Hathaway is the daughter of Donny Hathaway so it's not surprising she's an incredible singer; it's why she has four credits on the album. Now, I'm not totally sure about "Momma" because the effort features a sample of "On Your Own" but she also has an "additional vocals" credit. They are listed separately so I'd imagine her input extended past just a sample, but I'm not 100% sure.
Credits: Songwriting and production credit on "These Walls"
Dopson is part of 1500 or Nothin', which, according to their site, is "an independent musical energy machine that’s taking over music across the world through the production, promotion, and representation of artists, songwriters, musicians, and music videographers." Basically, they are a group of creatives who make dope shit like say, "These Walls", for instance, and are probably best known in hip-hop circles for their work with T.I., Young Jeezy, etc. Dopson, in particular, contributed percussion playing throughout the album.
Credits: Production credits on "How Much a Dollar Cost" and "You Ain't Gotta Lie (Momma Said)"
I'm pretty fascinated by this LoveDragon person. The only other credit I could find is on SZA's "Sobriety," which is also co-produced by Sounwave and Thundercat, who are all over this album. I guess TDE just has a shit ton of in-house producers. I'd love to hear more from this LoveDragon character though. Dragon, call me?
Mark Spears (AKA Sounwave)
Credits: Songwriting credits on "Alright" "Hood Politics" "Complexion (A Zulu Love)" "You Ain't Gotta Lie (Momma Said)" "Mortal Man" and production credits on"Wesley's Theory", "King Kunta", "These Walls", "u", "Alright", "For Sale (Interlude)", "Hood Politics", "Complexion", "Mortal Man".
Woah, 14 credits total. That's the highest credit total from anyone not named Duckworth. For the record, Mark Spears is Sounwave and it looks as though he uses his government name for songwriting credits and Sounwave for the production credits. Also, "Celebration" is still his best beat. Also-also, Spears co-wrote and produced Raleigh Ritchie's "Overdose." The more you know.
Credits: Songwriting Credit and feature on "Complexion"
Marlanna Evans is Rapsody! This is my favorite credit because I actually know Rapsody. We're not best friends or anything, but if we passed each other on the street she would totally know me. I know someone on the Kendrick album, it's kind of like I'm on the Kendrick album. Where's my check, Duckworth? If you are a DJBooth regular, you almost certainly also know her. If not, get hip to the game; she is one of the smartest, most honest and most humble emcees around and is definitely in my top five. Do you want to talk classic albums? Whatchu know about The Idea Of Beautiful? Congrats, Rap! Nobody deserves this more than you.
Credit: Songwriting credit on "i"
Just because he's the youngest Isley Brother doesn't mean he doesn't get a credit for the "That Lady" flip on "i."
Matthew Jehu Samuels (AKA Boi-1da)
Credits: Songwriting and production credit on "The Blacker The Berry"
Producers using their government names to confuse me again. Samuels is Boi-1da who, at this point, is the best producer of 2015.
Michael Brown (AKA Whoarei)
Credits: Songwriting and Production credit on "u"
I couldn't find any information on Brown. Do you have any idea how hard it is to track down someone on the internet named Michael Brown? I'd love to know more because "u" is the most powerful track on the album.
Update: Thanks to the one and only Raj of The Smoking Section, it has been brought to my attention that Michael Brown is Whoarei.
Quite frankly, I'm amazed. I'm sure it wasn't all his doing, but Kendrick really went for talent over popularity. He could have any producer he wanted and he picked Whoarei? Amazing. I guess it's not even a tough choice when you take a listen to Whoarei's SoundCloud. His Bandcamp is five ghost emojis too. This cat is incredible. Also, let the record show the back half of "u" is my favorite part of the whole album.
Update: No. 2: Don't call him Michael Brown.
Credits: Songwriting credit on "King Kunta"
Yes, that Michael Jackson. He gets a credit because Kendrick used that "Annie are you ok" line from "Smooth Criminal" on "King Kunta." Although I'd like to think Michael Jackson knew this album was going to be amazing, so he came back to life and helped Kendrick write "King Kunta." Yeah, let's go with that.
Credit: Songwriting credit on "i"
O'Kelly Isley was one of the founding members of The Isley Brothers. O'Kelly is no longer with us, he passed in 1986, but Kendrick is keeping his name and spirit alive. Like the rest of his family, O'Kelly gets a credit for the "That Lady" sample on "i."
Credit: Vocal credit on "Complexion (A Zulu Love)"
You know who Pete Rock is. In addition to appearing on the hook, Rock also did some scratching.
Credit: songwriting, production, and vocal credits on “Alright"
Pharrell is downright disgusting. He has had an incredible couple of years and is showing no signs of slowing down. I'm not surprised he was behind one of...maybe two?...tracks on this album that could be played on the radio.
Credits: Vocal credits on "For Sale? (Interlude) "Hood Politics" "You Ain't Gotta Lie (Momma Said)"
Credits: Songwriting credits on "For Free? (Interlude)", "These Walls", "How Much a Dollar Cost", and "You Ain't Gotta Lie (Momma Said)".
Okay, so, believe it or not, this is the most interesting credit on the whole album. I was fascinated by R. McKinney. He/she/they/it has four credits on the album. That's not Sounwave numbers, but four credits is a lot for someone without a first name. I refuse to let R. McKinney get away, I had to know; I'm Captain Ahab and R. McKinney is my white wale. I searched for so long, but all my searches came up empty.
But just as I was ready to give up, I came across this tweet. A quick Google search led me to the Facebook page of a church in Hawthorne, California. The church had no activity, no comments, and just a few pictures. On one picture, someone by the name of Rose McKinney had commented. WAS THIS HER?!?!? I clicked her page, did some stalking and saw she was friends with Terrace Martin. Holy balls! I think this minister from California is the illusive R. Mckinney! I friended her but no response. How does a minister—if that's indeed who R. McKinney is—end up with four songwriting credits (more than Pharrell, George Clinton, and Ronnie Isley) on one of the most anticipated albums of the last few years?!?! Stay tuned... I'm not letting this go until I have the whole story.
Credit: Songwriting credit on "Momma"
Rahsaan Patterson is a singer himself but here he lends his songwriting to "Momma." He also has credits with Ray J and Brandy, so R&B seems to be his lane. I'm actually kind of diggin' his music. Kendrick really drew from all different styles for this one and I think guys like Patterson really helped him make the transition.
Credit: Songwriting Credit on "Momma"
Rex Rideout looks like a producer/engineer. He has credit's on albums from Luther Vandross, Angie Stone, and Lalah Hathaway, who as you may recall is also credited on "Momma." Also, "Momma" was really a group effort.
Credits: Keyboardist throughout the album (see "These Walls")
Robert Glasper is one of the most heralded instrumentalists in hip-hop; you can tell by the company he keeps. In addition to The Robert Glasper Experience, Glasper has worked with Kanye, Jay, Q-Tip, Badu, Common and pretty much any legendary emcee you can think of. Real recognize real.
Credits: Drums on "For Free? Interlude"
This rabbit hole never ends, now we have session players.
Credits: Rhodes and keys"u" and "For Sale? (Interlude)"
I swear to God, he tweeted me, but then I couldn't find it (I did find this). Anyway, Dylan Bourne let me know he deserves a credit and he certainly does. Here's a dope ass jazz cover of The Walking Dead theme with Roget on the keys.
Ronald "Flippa" Colson
Credits: Production and Songwriting credits on "Wesely's Theory"
Ronny "Flip" Colson is a GRAMMY-winning producer who has worked with the likes of Rihanna, Usher, Wiz Khalifa and Nicki Minaj. According to his Twitter, he produced the intro of "Wesley's Theory" with Pop Wansel but Pop didn't get an official credit. I've reached out to Pop and I am waiting for confirmation. Journalism.
Credit: Featured on "How Much A Dollar Cost". Songwriting and vocal credit on "i"
Ronald is my favorite Isley because of "Contagious." I still remember seeing that video on BET. He also has an incredible, textured voice. He's the only Isley to actually appear on the album in a non-"i" fashion.
Credit: Songwriting credit on "i"
Okay. You know the drill by now..."i"..."That Lady." Also, do each of the Isleys get their own check for the sample? Does it all go to one estate?
Credit: Songwriting on "Institutionalized"
A great example of an artist I would probably have never heard of otherwise. In the jazz/R&B world, Sam is a pretty accomplished pianist and keyboardist.
Snoop a loop! Do I really need to say anything more? I didn't think so. Although, it should be noted that with the exception of Pharrell—and Dr. Dre's voicemail—Snoop's really the only truly famous feature on the album.
Stephen Bruner (AKA Thundercat)
Credits: Featured on "Wesley's Theory" and "These Walls". Songwriting credits on "Wesley's Theory", "King Kunta", "Hood Politics", "Complexion", and "Mortal Man". Production credits on "Wesley's Theory", "Hood Politics", and "Complexion. Additional vocal credits on "Alright", "Complexion", and "You Ain't Gotta Lie (Momma Said)."
Holy shit! Thundercat is all over this album! 13 total credits?! Second only to Sounwave. The only difference between them is that Thundercat has his vocals featured too and he played instrumentals throughout. That's bordering on a collab album. I guess Flying Lotus was right.
Credit: Songwriting Credit on "King Kunta"
Are you ready for this one? You sure? I don't think you are. Are you ready? Stefan Gordy is Redfoo. RED FUCKING FOO?!? You know, like from LMFAO. TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY?!?! Dafuq? Did he make a Starbucks run for Kendrick and Thundercat? Did he clean the MPCs? This is like Greg Oden getting a ring with the Heat in 2014. How the fuck did Redfoo find his way onto this album? [You know that Redfoo is Berry Gordy's son? As in Berry Gordon, the founder of Motown. Mind blown.]
Stephen Kozmeniuk (AKA KOZ)
Credits: Songwriting and production credit on "The Blacker The Berry"
Stephen Kozmeniuk, better known as KOZ, is not the most popular producer/songwriter in the world—he only has 450 followers—but his resume is pretty impressive: Madonna, P. Reign, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Joe Budden, and he even produced "Jesus Piece." Even without "Blacker The Berry," that's a hell of a discography.
Steven Ellison (AKA Flying Lotus)
Credits: Songwriting and Production credit on "Wesley's Theory"
Flying Lotus is another one of the bigger names so I'm not going to waste your time here. In case you don't know much about him, here is a good place to start. Also, I'd have to imagine he had more influence on the production than just this one song.
Credits: Songwriting credit on "Hood Politics"
Sufjan doesn't have a Twitter, but he doesn't need one; he's a legend in the indie-rock, alternative world. He does have a website and some music if you are interested, though. He's here because "Hood Politics" has a sample of "All For Myself." Sufjan on a song called "Hood Politics"? Sampling's the coolest; obligatory fuck Michael McDonald.
Also, completely random, there is a Sufjan Stevens hip-hop mash-up album from this producer named TOR that is absolutely stellar.
Credit: Songwriting credit on "Momma"
You know Sylvester Stewart better as the one and only Sly Stone. I looked for a sample credit or a "resung lyric" credit but there wasn't one. Hol' up, you mean to tell me Sylvester Stewart was actually involved with the album?!?! Ladies and gentlemen, just when we thought this album couldn't get any doper, I think, just maybe Sly Stone has an actual credit on the album! This almost makes up for Redfoo...
Credits: Vocal credit on “U” and "For Sale? (Interlude)"
TDE's lone songstress, SZA, has two credits here returning the favor for "Babylon." SZA is amazing. Future star.
Credit: Vocal credit on "Complexion"
I couldn't find much on Monte. I did, however, find someone named Monte Neuble who has credits on Channel Orange and Mary J. Blige's last album, among a few others. He's nothing more than a Twitter egg, though, so I'm not 100% sure.
Taz Arnold (AKA Ti$A)
Credits: Songwriting and production credits on "u" "For Sale? (Interlude)", "Momma". Vocal credits on "For Sale? (Interlude)" and "i".
Am I alone in not knowing who Taz Arnold is? Eight credits are nothing to scoff at. At first glance, his music sounds kind of out there. I'm going to have to spend some time with him because Kendrick is basically telling me to and I would give that guy my first born child.
Credits: Songwriting credits on"For Free? (Interlude)", "These Walls", "How Much a Dollar Cost", and "You Ain't Gotta Lie (Momma Said)."Production credits on "For Free? (Interlude,)" "King Kunta," "These Walls," "For Sale? (Interlude)," "Complexion," and "The Blacker the Berry."
With 10 total credits, Terrace Martin has the third most credits behind only Thundercat and Sounwave. If you want to check out his music—How could you not?—DJBooth is the perfect place; we've been featuring his work for six years now.
Credits: Production credit on "Institutionalized"
Credit: “Mortal Man”
TUPAC IS ALIVE! Okay, so he's totally not, but his conversation with Kendrick sounded so real, I thought maybe, just maybe, Kendrick had altered time and space. Turns out, it's from a 1994 interview with Mats Nileskar. Wanna listen to the whole thing?
Credits: Guitar on"u" and "For Sale? (Interlude)"
Another session player here. That's what you call them, right? Until this endeavor, I never really thought about session players.
Credits: Vocal credits on "Wesley's Theory" and "King Kunta"
Thanks to Kendrick's New York Times Magazine interview from last year, we found out Whitney Alford is his long-time girlfriend. Who knew she could also sing? Kendrick doesn't strike me as the kind of guy to put his girlfriend on a song for no reason; that's a Big Sean/Drake move.
Credit: Additional vocal credit on "i"
I couldn't find anything on anyone named William Sweat. Help?
Credit: Additional vocal credit on "You Ain't Gotta Lie (Momma Said)"
Wyann is a poet and from the sound of things a singer too. She has a great voice; peep her SoundCloud. In my research, I found two gems: first, this "Triangle Ship" song where Kendrick, Terrance, and Wyann do their thing over a 9th Wonder beat. Second, this picture:
Credit: Songwriting credit on "The Blacker The Berry"
Zale is 1/2 of the producer duo The Maven Boys, but his partner, Brett Kruger, was not credited on TPAB. They've worked with TPAB contributors Koz (on "Jesus Piece") and Boi-1da (on Schoolboy Q's "Yay Yay"). Also, Zale is only 25-years-old, which makes me wonder what am I doing with my life?