Last month, Kendrick Lamar, along with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, Mary J Blige, and Anderson .Paak, performed at the Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show. Lamar’s portion of the show was rather short, as he only played “M.A.A.D. City,” “Alright,” and a cover of “Forgot About Dre” with Eminem. One of those songs, “Alright,” has become one of Kendrick’s most impactful songs, often used during social justice protests. However, according to a recent episode of Alex Pappademas’ Spotify podcast The Big Hit Show, the song almost didn’t appear on his landmark 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly.
Sounwave, who co-produced “Alright” and other songs on the album, joined The Big Hit Show podcast to share the story behind the song. Sounwave was approached by Sam Taylor, a Sony Music executive, as he sat in a meeting that featured Pharrell playing beats for Kendrick and others. “I just remember my guy, Sam Taylor said, ‘Hey come check this one out,’” Sounwave recalled. “He takes me to another room and he plays me the skeleton of ‘Alright.’”
“And I just remember my jaw drop,” Sounwave continued. “It was just like literally just the 808s and the keys, and Pharrell had the melody of ‘We going be alright.’ And I was like, ‘Bro what is this?’ Oh my goodness, I’m freaking out. And I immediately run, I was like, ‘Dot, you have to come hear this.’”
Kendrick himself loved what he heard, but the next task was finishing the song and making sure it was a cohesive fit with the album. While completing the song was a breeze, making it fit on was difficult at first.
“It was super amazing, super fitting, sonically it was not, like no matter what we did, it just could not fit with the rest of the album,” Sounwave explained. “But we loved that record so much that I said, ‘Okay, I’m not letting this record die.’”
Thankfully, after some minor changes and some additional contributions from famed producer Terrace Martin, “Alright” found its place on To Pimp A Butterfly, and the rest is history.
You can listen to the full episode of The Big Hit Show here.