We continue our serialized examination of To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar with the album’s fifteenth track, “i.”
“i” is the narrative conclusion of To Pimp a Butterfly, the apex of Kendrick’s teachings on self-love and self-acceptance.
Written for his incarcerated friends and suicidal kids he meets on tour, “i” was released as the album’s first single six months prior to the full release of To Pimp a Butterfly. This early version, which we’ll refer to as the “studio version,” does not appear on the album. Instead, a live performance of “i” is used. Because Kendrick uses “i” self-referentially as a climactic narrative tool, we’re going to first use the studio version to examine the song’s thematic content. In Part 2, we’ll cross-examine the live version as it appears on the album.
Kendrick’s vocal inflection throughout “i” is soft, child-like, and unassuming. Like the song’s “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” and “You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said),” there’s a calculated s