Lamar couldn’t provide a better soundtrack for this particular moment in American history.

"Just think, if niggas decide to retaliate," warned the prophet Ice Cube in the spring of 1990. "It ain't wise to chastise and preach, just open the eyes of each—'cause laws are made to be broken up. What niggas need to do is start loc-ing up." The resonance of these words became deafening during the LA uprising of 1992. Let me tell you something you already know: A quarter of a century later, things aren't looking up, even a bit.

Kendrick Lamar's almost-outta-nowhere new album, To Pimp a Butterfly, feels every bit as prescient and timely (not to mention exquisitely assembled) as AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted did. On Cube's LP cover, his folks had taken the LA streets; on Kendrick's, he and his people cavort on the White House lawn with a judge laid at their feet, dead as the justice he was supposed to represent.

I'm not gonna attempt to be the millionth reviewer to break down TPAB—not without more time and space to unpack these heavy bags. Upon the album's (allegedly accidentally early) release online, the reviews, tweets, and status updates declaring it a full-stop, instant classic were flying—damn near before the album's actual running time had elapsed. Just know that there couldn't be a better soundtrack for this particular moment in American history.

Let the record show that the week this album dropped: (1) Starbucks publicized a ham-fisted initiative to make their least-paid employees attempt to discuss race with their customers in the two minutes before they get their morning fix (let's hope they were insured against any resulting third-degree facial burns), (2) a black UVA student had his head beat bloody on the concrete by beverage control officers for allegedly using a fake ID; (3) a middle-aged black man named Otis Byrd was found lynched in a tree behind his own house in Mississippi, and at press time is still considered the prime suspect in his own death.

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Meanwhile, back in Missouri, Darren Wilson was getting stand-up ovations at trivia night. Speaking of which, it's hard to forget what Kendrick Lamar said in Billboard months ago: "What happened to [Michael Brown] should've never happened. Never. But when we don't have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within."

Those good ol' respectability politics reared their head again—overlooking the simple fact that self-respect had nothing to do with that young man's body ending up dead in the street. Still, there's the idea that we should meet people where they're at. Lamar, who described himself as "the biggest hypocrite in 2015," admits it himself: "Lovin' me is complicated." Exactly like how I feel about America. Just like Kendrick on TPAB's most harrowing moment ("u"), it feels like she's inconsolable, on the verge of suicide. But then, on the very next song—a beaten, broken rallying cry for survival—he says, "I'm fucked up, homie, you fucked up, but if God got us, then we gon' be all right." recommended