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Dissect – A Serialized Music Podcast continues its season-long examination of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly with the album’s second track “For Free? (Interlude).”

“For Free?” is a personal favorite of mine. It’s songs like this that separate Lamar from his contemporary hip-hop peers. He’s assembled some of the greatest living jazz musicians to back him a raucous, unapologetic critique of the American Dream expressed in a rapid-fire stream of consciousness.

It takes extreme versatility in craft to execute a piece of music of this caliber while still operating within the sphere of popular culture. When I saw Kendrick perform an intimate show at the Fox Theatre in Oakland, he opened with this piece. And the crowd went nuts.

Can we think about this for second? A theatre full of rowdy twenty-somethings went wild about a spoken word piece recited over jazz music. This, to me, is nothing short of amazing. An artist that can leverage his influence to introduce his audience to new sounds and genres is the mark of a popular musician reaching the pinnacle of his or her craft.

The Beatles did this. Radiohead did this. Kendrick Lamar is doing this.

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