10 Risk-Taking Albums That Share Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly's Restless Sound

Music from Ice Cube, Stevie Wonder, Prince and more.

The Butterfly Effect - The noise is deafening. Kendrick Lamar's soaring To Pimp a Butterfly is being celebrated as a game-changing, unvarnished and at times devastating testimony of the Black experience; an album so densely layered in its scope that it forces listeners to ponder just how beautifully challenging mainstream hip hop can be. But even if you scoff at what may come off as over-the-top hyperbolic rambling surrounding K Dot's unwavering West Coast manifesto, consider this: As unconventional statements go, the elusive To Pimp a Butterfly simply keeps you guessing.Is it the modern day incarnation of Ice Cube's 1991 politically-charged middle finger Death Certificate (more on that later)? Is it an artsy spoken word performance masquerading as a modernized G-funk tribute? Is it an unrelenting self-critique of what it means to be a Black male (and famous) in America?...

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The Butterfly Effect - The noise is deafening. Kendrick Lamar's soaring To Pimp a Butterfly is being celebrated as a game-changing, unvarnished and at times devastating testimony of the Black experience; an album so densely layered in its scope that it forces listeners to ponder just how beautifully challenging mainstream hip hop can be. But even if you scoff at what may come off as over-the-top hyperbolic rambling surrounding K Dot's unwavering West Coast manifesto, consider this: As unconventional statements go, the elusive To Pimp a Butterfly simply keeps you guessing.Is it the modern day incarnation of Ice Cube's 1991 politically-charged middle finger Death Certificate (more on that later)? Is it an artsy spoken word performance masquerading as a modernized G-funk tribute? Is it an unrelenting self-critique of what it means to be a Black male (and famous) in America?...

Jimi Hendrix, Band of Gypsys (1970) - In 1968, the genre-pushing guitar genius was at the peak of his commercial powers, stamping an exclamation point on the psychedelic rock era as his double-album spectacle Electric Ladyland turned on the masses. Jimi Hendrix stuffed his grandiose statement ?? backed by his English-American three-man outfit the Jimi Hendrix Experience ?? with such staples as "Crosstown Traffic," "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" and the epic Bob Dylan cover "All Along the Watchtower" becoming the axe giant's highest-selling release.So what would Hendrix do for a follow-up? Band of Gypsys was deemed uneven by critics ? a muddled affair saddled with too much jamming and not enough realized craftsmanship. But Hendrix's bold merging of unhinged funk and hardened rock (his band now consisted of two brothers ? bassist Billy Cox and drum...

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Jimi Hendrix, Band of Gypsys (1970) - In 1968, the genre-pushing guitar genius was at the peak of his commercial powers, stamping an exclamation point on the psychedelic rock era as his double-album spectacle Electric Ladyland turned on the masses. Jimi Hendrix stuffed his grandiose statement –– backed by his English-American three-man outfit the Jimi Hendrix Experience –– with such staples as "Crosstown Traffic," "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" and the epic Bob Dylan cover "All Along the Watchtower" becoming the axe giant's highest-selling release.So what would Hendrix do for a follow-up? Band of Gypsys was deemed uneven by critics — a muddled affair saddled with too much jamming and not enough realized craftsmanship. But Hendrix's bold merging of unhinged funk and hardened rock (his band now consisted of two brothers — bassist Billy Cox and drum...

Sly and the Family Stone, There's a Riot Goin' On (1971) - The inclusive, peace and love energy of the hippie universe jumps out of the speakers on Stand! (1969), Sly & The Family Stone's fourth studio effort. It is infectiously soulful, church and reinvigorating in its sing-along celebrations topped by the massive unifying testimony of "Everyday People." As lead architect, the gifted Sly Stone could seemingly do no wrong. That all changed with a darkly tinted album made overwhelmingly for its times.There's a Riot Goin' On pushed James Brown's jagged funk forward, creating an indispensable template for the anything-goes controlled chaos of George Clinton's Parliament Funkadelic. There's a druggy, junkie paranoia that permeates throughout Riot. Even the "happy" songs like "Family Affair" are haunting, spurring some writers like the Los An...

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Sly and the Family Stone, There's a Riot Goin' On (1971) - The inclusive, peace and love energy of the hippie universe jumps out of the speakers on Stand! (1969), Sly & The Family Stone's fourth studio effort. It is infectiously soulful, church and reinvigorating in its sing-along celebrations topped by the massive unifying testimony of "Everyday People." As lead architect, the gifted Sly Stone could seemingly do no wrong. That all changed with a darkly tinted album made overwhelmingly for its times.There's a Riot Goin' On pushed James Brown's jagged funk forward, creating an indispensable template for the anything-goes controlled chaos of George Clinton's Parliament Funkadelic. There's a druggy, junkie paranoia that permeates throughout Riot. Even the "happy" songs like "Family Affair" are haunting, spurring some writers like the Los An...

Stevie Wonder, Stevie Wonder's Journey Through 'The Secret Life of Plants' (1979) - From '72 to '76, Stevie Wonder was the most important (and deified) recording artist on the planet. His run of Grammy-sweeping, art-elevating LP's held a streak of five consecutive works that hit the artistic motherlode with the sweeping Songs in the Key of Life (1976). So you could imagine the confused faces of fans who picked up Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants."No you won't find the transcendent boogie of "Sir Duke," the seething consciousness of "Pastime Paradise" or the delicate beauty of "If It's Magic." This is a fully conceptual, partly instrumental experiment that, for lack of a better word, was quite out there. Stevie had enough good-will capital to pull off such a dramatic turn. But he still threw his followers a bone with the gorgeo...

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Stevie Wonder, Stevie Wonder's Journey Through 'The Secret Life of Plants' (1979) - From '72 to '76, Stevie Wonder was the most important (and deified) recording artist on the planet. His run of Grammy-sweeping, art-elevating LP's held a streak of five consecutive works that hit the artistic motherlode with the sweeping Songs in the Key of Life (1976). So you could imagine the confused faces of fans who picked up Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants."No you won't find the transcendent boogie of "Sir Duke," the seething consciousness of "Pastime Paradise" or the delicate beauty of "If It's Magic." This is a fully conceptual, partly instrumental experiment that, for lack of a better word, was quite out there. Stevie had enough good-will capital to pull off such a dramatic turn. But he still threw his followers a bone with the gorgeo...

Prince & The Revolution, Around the World in a Day (1985) - How's this for balls? Coming off the triple threat of a top-selling album (1984's career-elevating Purple Rain soundtrack moved a gaudy 15 million units worldwide), an Academy Award-winning No. 1 film and the biggest tour of the year, you decide to brazenly shake off the immense fanbase that propelled you into Michael Jackson's stratosphere and release a loopy, '60s-inspired psychedelic and at times political romp. Only Prince would commit what many charged as career suicide.Yet the Minneapolis maverick was playing the long game on Around the World in a Day, reveling in the artistic freedom of such cuts as "Paisley Park," "Pop Life," "Tambourine" and "America," noteworthy for its anti-Communist, patriotic slant. Even his mainstream hit "Raspberry Beret" was high p...

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Prince & The Revolution, Around the World in a Day (1985) - How's this for balls? Coming off the triple threat of a top-selling album (1984's career-elevating Purple Rain soundtrack moved a gaudy 15 million units worldwide), an Academy Award-winning No. 1 film and the biggest tour of the year, you decide to brazenly shake off the immense fanbase that propelled you into Michael Jackson's stratosphere and release a loopy, '60s-inspired psychedelic and at times political romp. Only Prince would commit what many charged as career suicide.Yet the Minneapolis maverick was playing the long game on Around the World in a Day, reveling in the artistic freedom of such cuts as "Paisley Park," "Pop Life," "Tambourine" and "America," noteworthy for its anti-Communist, patriotic slant. Even his mainstream hit "Raspberry Beret" was high p...

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Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989) - The truth is Janet Jackson doesn't get enough credit for this landmark concept album. There are not enough essays or think pieces detailing just how much of a roll of the dice Rhythm Nation 1814 was. Think about it. The delicate performer had just danced out of her shell on the multi-platinum breakthrough Control (1986). Now she's preaching a message of racial unity, anti-poverty and hooking up with Public Enemy's roaring prophet of rage Chuck D?!!! There is always danger for an act whose foundation was built on sugary sweet grooves and well choreographed workouts getting all What's Going On.Janet, however, more than pulls it off, transforming usually eye-rolling subject matter like the save-the-children ballad "Livin' in a World (They Didn't Make)" and the one-world title track into earnest, serious-minded commentary. Call...

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Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989) - The truth is Janet Jackson doesn't get enough credit for this landmark concept album. There are not enough essays or think pieces detailing just how much of a roll of the dice Rhythm Nation 1814 was. Think about it. The delicate performer had just danced out of her shell on the multi-platinum breakthrough Control (1986). Now she's preaching a message of racial unity, anti-poverty and hooking up with Public Enemy's roaring prophet of rage Chuck D?!!! There is always danger for an act whose foundation was built on sugary sweet grooves and well choreographed workouts getting all What's Going On.Janet, however, more than pulls it off, transforming usually eye-rolling subject matter like the save-the-children ballad "Livin' in a World (They Didn't Make)" and the one-world title track into earnest, serious-minded commentary. Call...

De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead (1991) - De La Soul wanted no parts of their image as so called hip hop hippies. So the Long Island, New York trio took a sledgehammer to their lighthearted, sunshine-and-daisies 1989 platinum debut 3 Feet High and Rising and got serious. Constructed in the mode of storybook read-along, De La Soul Is Dead finds the guys literally fighting would be antagonists who take their kindness for being soft as boo boo punks ("Peas Porridge"); mocking gangsta rap ("Afro Connections at a Hi 5: In the Eyes of the Hoodlum"); and weaving the tragic tale of a girl who shoots her molesting father ("Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa").Yeah, things get deep, but the group's acerbic humor is still intact. Throughout De La Soul Is Dead, Posdnous, Trugoy and Maseo are hilariously put down for not being hard enough (peep Black Sheep's Dres ...

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De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead (1991) - De La Soul wanted no parts of their image as so called hip hop hippies. So the Long Island, New York trio took a sledgehammer to their lighthearted, sunshine-and-daisies 1989 platinum debut 3 Feet High and Rising and got serious. Constructed in the mode of storybook read-along, De La Soul Is Dead finds the guys literally fighting would be antagonists who take their kindness for being soft as boo boo punks ("Peas Porridge"); mocking gangsta rap ("Afro Connections at a Hi 5: In the Eyes of the Hoodlum"); and weaving the tragic tale of a girl who shoots her molesting father ("Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa").Yeah, things get deep, but the group's acerbic humor is still intact. Throughout De La Soul Is Dead, Posdnous, Trugoy and Maseo are hilariously put down for not being hard enough (peep Black Sheep's Dres ...

Ice Cube, Death Certificate (1991) - The West Coast gangsta joins the Nation of Islam and finds spiritual and empowering enlightenment. Actually, Ice Cube's raging proclamation Death Certificate is a lot more dense and complex in its scope. If his first post-N.W.A solo stretch, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (1990), was a straight forward study of a street soldier reporting on the violence and police brutality that plagued urban communities in Los Angeles, Cube's expansive sophomore assault was a defiant, militant protest record targeting white supremacy, racial profiling and self-hatred.There are no easy answers on Death Certificate. Following the blistering "Black Korea" ? a track that responded to the death of Latasha Harlins, a Black 15-year-old who was shot by a Korean store owner ? a polarizing Cube was later blamed for inciting violence between African-Americans and...

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Ice Cube, Death Certificate (1991) - The West Coast gangsta joins the Nation of Islam and finds spiritual and empowering enlightenment. Actually, Ice Cube's raging proclamation Death Certificate is a lot more dense and complex in its scope. If his first post-N.W.A solo stretch, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (1990), was a straight forward study of a street soldier reporting on the violence and police brutality that plagued urban communities in Los Angeles, Cube's expansive sophomore assault was a defiant, militant protest record targeting white supremacy, racial profiling and self-hatred.There are no easy answers on Death Certificate. Following the blistering "Black Korea" — a track that responded to the death of Latasha Harlins, a Black 15-year-old who was shot by a Korean store owner — a polarizing Cube was later blamed for inciting violence between African-Americans and...

Outkast, ATLiens - The ATL players shed their party personas on this album and began conceptualizing with futuristic undertones, yet remained true to the South. The group would continue to do that well into their fourth album. ATLiens outsold their debut by a million copies. Fresh.(Photo: LaFace Records)

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OutKast, ATLiens (1996) - OutKast gets weird and plants a freak flag for southern hip hop. Compared to André 3000's and Big Boi's smoked-out, 'hood centered exploits, which paced their 1994 swaggering opening salvo Southernplalisticadillacmuzik, ATLiens was a cliff-jumping, space age, introspective voyage. If P-Funk was reborn as unchained rap innovators, they would most certainly be OutKast.From an atmospheric dub reggae-paced testimony on the ups and downs of success ("Elevators [Me & You"]) and self-reflecting poetry ("13th Floor/Growing Old") to B-Boy inspired throwdowns ("Wheelz of Steel"), ATLiens never stays in one place. Future releases would find the boundless duo taking their sound to even more dizzying chambers, but this flip officially launched Kast's legend.(Photo: LaFace Records)

Erykah Badu, Worldwide Underground (2003) - The confounding Worldwide Underground was essentially Badu breaking out of the limited constraints of neo soul. Heavy on hip hop and elastic funk, gorgeous torch songs were not part of the game plan for the restless singer-songwriter. The groove-centered "Bump It," "Back in the Day (Puff)," and "Think Twice" trail off from the melodic eccentricities of Badu's previous million-seller Mama's Gun.Hooks bleed into verses; vocals are at times an afterthought. Badu even revisits the supportive baby mama conflicted over her lover's criminal D-boy pursuits on Baduizm's haunting "Otherside of the Game." This time she's in survival mode after her boyfriend's incarceration on the paranoid "Danger": "Got a box of money that I keep under my bed / But we don't spend it though/ Might need it for mo...

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Erykah Badu, Worldwide Underground (2003) - The confounding Worldwide Underground was essentially Badu breaking out of the limited constraints of neo soul. Heavy on hip hop and elastic funk, gorgeous torch songs were not part of the game plan for the restless singer-songwriter. The groove-centered "Bump It," "Back in the Day (Puff)," and "Think Twice" trail off from the melodic eccentricities of Badu's previous million-seller Mama's Gun.Hooks bleed into verses; vocals are at times an afterthought. Badu even revisits the supportive baby mama conflicted over her lover's criminal D-boy pursuits on Baduizm's haunting "Otherside of the Game." This time she's in survival mode after her boyfriend's incarceration on the paranoid "Danger": "Got a box of money that I keep under my bed / But we don't spend it though/ Might need it for mo...

Kanye West, Yeezus (2013) - Maybe Kanye West knew there was no where else to go but down following the across-the-board universal acclaim of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). Or maybe the reality of becoming Mr. Kardashian was an eye-opening exercise in tabloid excess. Whatever the reason, Yeezus is a complacency-bucking freakout of epic proportions that's more new age electro punk than confrontational rap. West's targets are many: America's racist power structure, blood-sucking media outlets, hip hop zealots, politicized religious organizations...they all get it. ?If I don?t get ran out by Catholics / Here come some conservative Baptists / Claiming I?m overreacting,? he charges over the warring drums of "Black Skinhead."The beats bleep, crash and burn. West dives head first with no regard for the eventual fallout. He's too busy connecting the dots. ?My momma was...

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Kanye West, Yeezus (2013) - Maybe Kanye West knew there was no where else to go but down following the across-the-board universal acclaim of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). Or maybe the reality of becoming Mr. Kardashian was an eye-opening exercise in tabloid excess. Whatever the reason, Yeezus is a complacency-bucking freakout of epic proportions that's more new age electro punk than confrontational rap. West's targets are many: America's racist power structure, blood-sucking media outlets, hip hop zealots, politicized religious organizations...they all get it. “If I don’t get ran out by Catholics / Here come some conservative Baptists / Claiming I’m overreacting,” he charges over the warring drums of "Black Skinhead."The beats bleep, crash and burn. West dives head first with no regard for the eventual fallout. He's too busy connecting the dots. “My momma was...