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Kendrick Lamar’s New Album: Everything We Know

The details of the long-anticipated follow-up to ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ have been kept largely under wraps. Here’s all the info that’s out there

Kendrick Lamar

Rapper Kendrick Lamar photographed at Hiphop Kemp 2013.

Lukas Maeder/Redux

UPDATE: Kendrick Lamar surprise-released his new album To Pimp a Butterfly one week early on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify.

In 2012, Kendrick Lamar's Grammy-nominated, radio-dominating major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, was immediately measured by the same yardstick as earth-shattering albums like Nas' Illmatic and Kanye West's The College Dropout. And like those MCs before him, anticipation for Lamar's follow-up was — and remains — sky high.

However, besides a Grammy-winning standalone single, a bevy of feature performances, a missed September 2014 release date and new single, "The Blacker the Berry," there hasn't been a whole lot of concrete information out there regarding Lamar's March 23rd-bound return. Gathering the loose pieces from radio interviews, magazine features and our recent cover story, this is everything we can say about the record.

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PASADENA, CA - FEBRUARY 21: Rapper Kendrick Lamar performs onstage at the Rose Bowl on February 21, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

There Will Be Guests…But Possibly Not Any Guest Rappers

In a Rolling Stone interview in September, Kendrick revealed that he had not yet approached any other MCs to provide features on his next LP. His last album, by contrast, featured cameos by Drake, Jay Rock, Dr. Dre and MC Eiht. "I have so much to say. It's almost selfish of me," Lamar said.

However, that doesn't mean that there won't be guests. "The Blacker the Berry" sports a cameo by dancehall star Assassin, who previously assisted on Kanye West's "I'm In It." And, in a Billboard interview, producer Terrace Martin added jazz pianist Robert Glasper, singer Lalah Hathaway and Anna Wise (who previously appeared on good kid's "Real") to the list of Lamar's new album collaborators.

Kendrick Lamar

FAJARDO, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Kendrick Lamar performs during the Bacardi Triangle event on November 1, 2014 in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. The event saw 1,862 music fans take on one of the most mysterious forces of nature in a three day epic music adventure. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for BACARDI)

Christopher Polk/Getty

It Will Be Politically Charged

Like D'Angelo's Black Messiah, To Pimp a Butterfly is informed by the recent tragic killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. "To me, the album is perfect for right now. If the world was happy, maybe we'd give you a happy album. But right now, we are not happy," Digi+Phonics producer Mark "Sounwave" Spears tells Rolling Stone .

As producer Terrace Martin tells Billboard of the recent single "The Blacker the Berry," "What [Lamar] is talking about is a perfect time for what's going on in life. It's a soulful record, it's a record that needed to be done, and it's like the modern times of Public Enemy. It's a black record. It's a record about being black and being proud at the end of the day."

Martin is strictly instructed by the rapper not to indulge any specific details about the upcoming LP, but the producer does offer up, "I know [Lamar's album] is going to touch somebody. I wanna say, 'It's gon' be big and the world gon' change over night and Obama gon' chill with us and the police gon' stop killing brothers and blacks can walk around safe,' but I can't say that."

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PASADENA, CA - FEBRUARY 21: Rapper Kendrick Lamar performs onstage at the Rose Bowl on February 21, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Potential Inclusion: Untitled Track From ‘The Colbert Report’

"You are the last Colbert Report musical guest. Honored to have you on, but keep in mind: Paul McCartney, R.E.M., Jack White and Nas were your opening acts," Stephen Colbert told Lamar on December 16th. To mark the occasion, Lamar unleashed a jazzy, experimental "untitled" track that featured a Terrace Martin saxophone solo and some of Lamar's most contentious lyricism to date. Producer Astronote later took credit for the track, which also boasts contributions from Bilal and Thundercat.

Kendrick Lamar

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 02: Kendrick Lamar performs at We Day Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on October 2, 2014 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)

George Pimentel/Getty

Potential Inclusion: “I’m Da Man”

Weeks after Lamar released the standalone, non-album single "i," Lamar's Top Dawg associate Ab-Soul leaked a 53-second snippet of a gritty new Lamar song called "I'm Da Man" on his SoundCloud. Ab-Soul doesn't elaborate on the track's provenance and Lamar hasn't commented on the track.

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PASADENA, CA - FEBRUARY 21: Rapper Kendrick Lamar performs onstage at the Rose Bowl on February 21, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Definite Inclusion: “The Blacker the Berry”

On February 10th, without warning, Lamar dropped his newest and most confrontational song to date, "The Blacker the Berry." The track, named after Wallace Thurman's book of the same title, finds Lamar tackling institutional violence, hypocrisy and the termination of his culture.

"I'm the biggest hypocrite of 2015/Once I finish this, witnesses will convey just what I mean," Lamar raps at the onset of every verse. "The plot is bigger than me/It's generational hatred/It's genocism, it's grimy, little justification/I'm African-American, I'm African/Black as the heart of a fuckin' Aryan/I'm black as the name Tyrone and Darius." 

The track features engulfing, layered production by Boi-1da — adding the frequent Drake collaborator to Lamar's new album mix — as well as Terrace Martin and Boi-1da protégé KOZ. 

Kendrick Lamar

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 13: Kendrick Lamar performs at ONE MusicFest at Aaron's Amphitheatre on September 13, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/FilmMagic)

Prince Williams/Getty

Definite Inclusion: “King Kunta”

While the album was still unfinished at the time of our cover-story interview — Lamar had to finish it within the next five days — the rapper did share some new tracks. One of them, "King Kunta" is a funky stomper where Lamar assumes the role of the titular slave in Roots. Scott Vener, the music supervisor for Entourage heard it back in October and Tweeted: "After @Pharrell heard it. The first thing he said 'that song is so unapologetically black and AMAZING…those chord changes though. I can't wait for @QTipTheAbstract to hear this."

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