Our season long examination of To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar continues with the album’s ninth track “Momma.”
On “Momma,” Kendrick returns home to Compton for the second time on the album. On his first return, he gloated about his success and status on the song “King Kunta.” This time around Kendrick shows signs of maturation. He’s reflective, nostalgic. Having been through the trauma of “u” and the hypnotic seduction of “For Sale?,” home is now a place of grounding comfort that helps Kendrick in his search for clarity and contentment.
On verse three, Kendrick returns to another, more metaphoric home: Africa. He recounts an experience in South Africa in which he feels an inert kinship with a boy there. It forces Kendrick to reconsider his entire identity and sends him spinning into an existential crisis that’s reflected in the song’s abstract outro.
By its conclusion, “Momma” sees Kendrick at yet another crossroads. The third verse closes with the line “if you pick destiny over rest in peace, be an advocate, tell your homies especially to come back home.” Is Kendrick to give into his suicidal thoughts or use his experiences to better the Compton’s of the world? Should he pimp his success for good or for evil? By extension, Kendrick also poses these questions to his listeners. How do you choose to use your influence? Do you measure success by the contents of your bank account or the contents of your heart? Are you selfless or selfish?