kendrick lamar
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'Good Kid, M.A.A.D City' vs. 'To Pimp a Butterfly' — Which Kendrick Lamar Album Is Better?

'Good Kid, M.A.A.D City' and 'To Pimp a Butterfly' have become classic Kendrick Lamar albums. But which project is better? Here's a breakdown of the numbers.


Jun. 20 2024, Published 10:59 a.m. ET

There is no doubt that Kendrick Lamar will go down as one of the greatest rappers of all time. The Pulitzer Prize winning lyricist has had a career marked by commercial success and hip-hop triumphs.

His discography is punctuated by two standout albums: Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and To Pimp a Butterfly.

Both albums have been regarded as classic records and have greatly contributed to K-Dot’s legacy. But which album stands out as the superior creation?

rapper kendrick lamar performs onstage during day three of rolling loud miami
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: Rapper Kendrick Lamar performs onstage during day three of Rolling Loud Miami 2022

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‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ is a cinematic narrative.

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is often celebrated for its cohesive narrative and vivid storytelling. Dubbed a "short film by Kendrick Lamar," the project follows the life of a young Kendrick growing up in Compton, Calif.

On tracks like "B****, Don't Kill My Vibe," "Swimming Pools (Drank)," and "m.A.A.d city," the rapper blends personal anecdotes with broader social commentary, creating a raw listening experience.

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The album featured contributions from Dr. Dre, Just Blaze, and Pharrell Williams, and was praised by hip-hop heads. Kendrick earned six Grammy nominations for his work on the project, including Best New Artist and Album Of The Year.

'To Pimp a Butterfly' was a political and cultural phenomenon.

In contrast, To Pimp a Butterfly marks a departure from the personal to the political. This album delves deep into themes of racial inequality, black empowerment, and self-worth. Kendrick delivers powerful verses on "Alright," "The Blacker the Berry," and "King Kunta," that showcase his ability to fuse complex lyricism with innovative production.

The album was crafted by producers Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and Sounwave, challenging traditional hip-hop conventions.

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Like Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, To Pimp a Butterfly was a huge success. It earned the Compton native a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, after spending two weeks atop the Billboard 200 chart — selling more than 1 million copies.

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So, which Kendrick album reigns supreme? It depends on your preference.

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was Kendrick’s second studio album, and his first to sell more than 1 million copies. Recognized by the RIAA with a triple platinum certification, the album has seen over 3 million units distributed, solidifying its status as the rapper's second best-selling release.

However, To Pimp a Butterfly marked a transformative time for Kendrick. In addition to being the rapper’s first No. 1 album, To Pimp a Butterfly was a musical and cultural masterpiece.

Kendrick Lamar accepts the award for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly.'
Source: Getty Images

Kendrick Lamar accepts the award for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly.'

While Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is praised for its storytelling and cohesion, To Pimp a Butterfly is celebrated for being ambitious and innovative.

Critics often highlight the former's narrative strength and the latter's thematic songs. Rolling Stone placed both projects on their list of the 200 great rap albums of all time. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was ranked No. 38. While To Pimp a Butterfly landed in the fifth spot on the publication’s list.

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