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Dissect’s season-long analysis of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly continues with the album’s fifth track “These Walls.”

On “These Walls,” Kendrick speaks of various metaphoric walls to express the confinements of vice. It interweaves a complex threesome between Kendrick, an unnamed woman, and an imprisoned man serving a life sentence. Each deals with their own personal set of constricting walls that work to prohibit personal progress.

Upon first listen, “These Walls” is a similar experience to “King Kunta.” It’s so infectiously danceable and enjoyable that the intricacies of the story it tells is easily lost. But this only works to exemplify Kendrick’s extraordinary talent to craft radio-ready singles without sacrificing the album’s narrative or its ability to stand on its own under scrutiny. It’s only after thorough examination that one realizes its intricacies.

“These Walls” is one of my personal favorites from To Pimp a Butterfly. It’s a song performed by real instruments without samples, which is far too uncommon in contemporary hip-hop music. It doesn’t hurt that Kendrick has some of the most talented jazz and fusion musicians backing him, including Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, and Thundercat.

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