... a thoroughly engaging, enlightening portrait not just of celebrated rapper Kendrick Lamar's life and music...but more broadly of Lamar's indelible stamp on contemporary musical landscapes and popular culture ... Ultimately, The Butterfly Effect is more than an interesting biography: it's an investigation into what art can encapsulate and what kinds of change it can effect. And as Moore himself skillfully demonstrates, Lamar's contribution is worth celebrating, worth study, worth the flowers now.
The Butterfly Effect can feel a little padded ... More conversational than scholarly, it’s at its most effective when charting Lamar’s cultural awakening, prompted in part by a life-changing pilgrimage to South Africa and the death of Trayvon Martin, and the almost parallel rise of Black Lives Matter. It tries to be a lot of things—an artistic biography, a fan letter, an abbreviated history of West Coast hip-hop, an examination of Black art as a vehicle for resistance—and does most of them well. But it necessarily suffers from the frustrating opacity of its subject, and the unfortunate timing of its release. It concludes in early 2020, too soon to document the protests that arose this summer.
Music journalist Moore’s in-depth biography celebrates the life, struggles, and accolades of Compton’s own, rapper Kendrick Lamar ... Moore’s portrait of Lamar accounts for how one young man’s mindful lyrics and sounds can have a profound and far-reaching impact.
The friends and collaborators interviewed by Marcus J. Moore in The Butterfly Effect have nothing to report but his phenomenal dedication to his craft, bringing to mind the joke about the job candidate who says that his worst quality is perfectionism ... If there is a way to rewire this flawless ascent into a compelling narrative, then Moore hasn’t found it. Even as he praises Lamar’s verbal precision, his own prose is hobbled by industry jargon and incoherent metaphors ... Hyperbole runs riot ... The strongest chapter documents the painstaking creation of To Pimp a Butterfly ... Having made BLM so integral to the book, Moore seems reluctant to explore how great artists are always imperfect activists. So it goes. While Lamar never stops asking difficult questions, Moore asks too few.
Moore...shows that he’s been around the block, pulling together hundreds of sources from interviews and headlines over the years. He convincingly shows his subject’s transition from his first moniker, K-Dot, to Kendrick Lamar, as well as the development of the now-powerhouse label Top Dawg Entertainment ... the author offers an insightful history of place, a narrative element that must inform any deep reading of hip-hop culture ... In this solid introduction, Moore uses a...general approach, a wise strategy since fans already know that Lamar is the most reliable narrator of his own story ... An effective biographical portrait that will serve well until Lamar writes his own retrospective.
... [a] gushing hagiography ... On the earthly plane Moore styles Lamar as the voice of oppressed Black people in a politicized interpretation that rehashes police killings and labels Donald Trump a white supremacist. Moore sometimes writes perceptively about Lamar’s music ... but too often wallows in vacuous praise ... Anyone who doesn’t worship at the church of Lamar will likely be put off by the tedious puffery.