To Pimp a Butterfly is a certified classic in eyes of many hip hop heads. And during a Twitter Q&A session, Kendrick Lamar himself replied that his favorite track on the album is For Free. Terrence Martin produced the jazz influenced instrumental that Kendrick attacks with spoken word. K Dot channels slam poetry techniques by chopping up his line breaks and standard rhythm constraints. If we follow the butterfly life cycle (a metaphor that flows throughout the album), the second track For Free would still present the butterfly as a caterpillar. The butterfly is still being pimped and is a product of its environment. The single track is a turning point for Kendrick. The personification of America is embodied by a female. The capitalistic nature of the woman is analogous to how America treats black men. The stereotypical achievement for a successful black man is through material wealth. Kendrick is suppose to let go of his principles and replace it with superficial possessions.
Lyrically this track could be dissected for years, but the video attempts to visualize the intricate patterns and concept. A woman (America) begins the video belittling Kendrick, telling him that she needs a baller. At one point Kendrick probably was susceptible to the demands, but now he is ready to reclaim his self-esteem. His character will not be devalued and not be conditional to the false perception of success. Throughout the song Kendrick haunts the woman as she runs around his home. Towards the end of the song Kendrick says, "Oh America, you bad [chick], I picked cotton that made you rich." This one line makes multiple complex references. In its implication to the past, we of course have the literal relationship slavery had with the wealth and prosperity of America. In a more current sense we see that there is a different America for minorities. People in power use their position to endorse and push forward a system that proportionally favors the rich. This ideology runs in tandem with rules/laws that target the poor and marginalized to keep the Americas separate. Where Alright takes a more macro viewpoint, For Free's personification of America as a single person gives us a more intimate relationship with Kendrick. The video is very weird and avant garde, but it works as a whole. His exaggerated movements and expression play well with the rhythm structure of the song. The jazz influence also allows Kendrick to be more theatrical and dramatic.
Peep video for For Free below.