Last night felt like a replay of December when D’Angelo suddenly dropped Black Messiah. While Kendrick Lamar didn’t quite release To Pimp A Butterfly out of the blue, it was a week earlier than most of us had expected. Although we had known for a while that Terrace Martin, Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, and Robert Glasper were featured on To Pimp a Butterfly, we had no clue about all the other notable musicians who contributed to what is Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus.
Robert “Sput” Searight
Any Snarky Puppy fan will immediately spot Robert Searight aka Sput’s name and place the energetic drummer. Sput, along with Snarky Puppy and Lalah Hathaway, enjoyed a Grammy win last year for “Something” (more on that later). The drummer contributed his chops on “For Free” as well as “Hood Politics”.
As mentioned above, Lalah Hathaway and Snarky Puppy went home with a Grammy for “Something”. Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past two years, then the obvious talking point with “Something” is how Ms. Hathaway busted out two notes while singing – right here! She lent her vocals on numerous tracks throughout To Pimp A Butterfly. Interestingly enough, her song “On Your Own” was sampled on “Momma.” That had to be the easiest sample clearance that K Dot’s legal team ever did.
It’s almost impossible to have a hip-hop album that has notes of jazz, R&B, funk, and soul without including Bilal. The oh-so-versatile singer sang throughout TPAB, giving the album an added texture.
Guitarist Keith Askey is best known for his work with Virgina-based soul/R&B collective Butcher Brown. The band first received notoriety when they backed up trumpeter Nicholas Payton on Numbers. “Working with Kendrick was awesome,” Askey comments. “I was most impressed by his work ethic. He doesn’t stop working. There was no ego either.”
Chris Smith is an up-and-coming bassist who has worked with the who’s who in jazz. The bassist is featured on “i” along with Thundercat, as well as former Butcher Brown bandmate Keith Askey.
Ambrose Akinmusire’s music is not necessarily background music while you wash dishes. His 2014 release, The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier To Paint, was a 13-track musical story that took listeners through characters and situations created by the composer and trumpeter. While producer Josef Leimberg handles most of the trumpet playing throughout To Pimp A Butterfly, Ambrose does get a chance to hit on the last track of the album.
Ronald Bruner Jr.
Grammy-award winning drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. has performed with some of the biggest names in music from Stanley Clark, Dianne Reeves and Clark Terry to Suicidal Tendencies, Raphael Saadiq and his brother Stephen Bruner aka Thundercat (video above).