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Here’s A Timeline Of Everything That Led Up To Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly

The timing may have been a surprise, but not everything about the release was.

March 16, 2015

Kendrick Lamar's long-awaited To Pimp a Butterfly hit the internet last night, one week ahead of schedule. The good kid, m.A.A.d city follow-up had been largely guarded until then, with only a week's notice and two very different sounding lead singles. Here, a timeline of everything we knew about it leading up to last night.

August 2013

During a call with Power 106's Big Boy's Neighborhood, Kendrick reveals that he's been writing and "scrambling ideas" for a new album. "There were a lot of things I didn't get to do with good kid, m.A.A.d city," he says,"so for the people to actually receive it the way they did, in a positive light, it's like, man, if I can really do everything I want to do on the next album I can take it to the next level."

October 2013

"The Blacker The Berry" producer Terrace Martin reveals that he's about to "really" dig in on Kendrick's new album during an interview with Global Grind about his own new project, 3ChordFold, which just so happened to feature a Kendrick verse.

December 2013

Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony Tiffith sets a bold resolution for the coming year, boasting that he plans to drop six new albums in the next 365 days. "TAKEOVER," he writes.

February 2014

In an interview with Billboard, Tiffith expands on his aforementioned plan for a TDE "takeover." In addition to projects from Isaiah Rashad, SZA, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, and TDE supergroup Black Hippy, he indicates that Kendrick's new album will be out in September of 2014. Meanwhile, Kendrick seems to be grinding hard; he's been spotted in the studio with Mike WiLL Made It, Q Tip, Alchemist, Dr. Dre, Scoop Deville, DJ Dahi, and THC—allegedly working on his album and otherwise.

March 2014

A nearly indecipherable video of Kendrick performing a new song at an unknown private event bubbles up on YouTube. It's dubbed "Black Mamba," and it will later be included on fake tracklists.

August 2014

Kendrick is featured on the cover of Complex magazine's July/August issue. Within, it's reported that Kendrick has recorded 30 or 40 new songs for the album, and that he is working towards a fourth quarter release.

TDE co-president Punch tells XXL that they've "for sure" settled on a concept for the album but are still working out what the sound will be. "It's process that we go through when we're recording a project. I don't want to give too much away but there's certain steps that we take," he says. "I don't think it's to the point yet where we have the actual sound of what it's going to be but the idea is there for sure, the whole concept and the different songs that he wants to make."

September 2014

Kendrick tells Rolling Stone that listeners should expect "aggression and emotion," but few guest verses. "I have so much to say," he says, "It's almost selfish of me." He also confirms that he's been working with Dr. Dre, who, he says, has "tried to really elevate himself."

Rumor that a new Kendrick single is scheduled to drop sends the internet into a tizzy. Just short of affirming, Tiffith's tweets: "Be Patient...i wont let yall down.... kdot and @jayrock coming soon."

On September 17, the artwork for a new Rhaki-produced single called "i" is released. The self-love anthem drops on September 23.

A snippet of another new song, allegedly titled "I'm Da Man," surfaces.

October 2014

Kendrick visits Paisley Park where he performs a 1998 rarity "What's My Name" with the man of the estate, Prince. This sets off rumors of a possible collaboration that still hasn't yet come to light.

During a twitter Q&A session, Flying Lotus says that the day he spent in the studio with Kendrick Lamar was "one of the most fun ever." Kendrick arrived alone and laid down his verse for "Never Catch Me" on the spot, and another for another You're Dead! track, "Eyes Above," that had to be left off the album. Unfortunately, that's not the only Kendrick-FlyLo collab that we might never hear:

November 2014

Kendrick drops by the Hot 97 for a chat with Ebro and the Morning Show crew on November 3. He tells that that the new album will be more raw than good kid, m.A.A.d city, and that he's keeping his production crew tight-knit. "If anything, aside from good kid, it'll probably feel even more raw," Kendrick Lamar said. "Because it's a little more dirty with the live, dirty drums on it. It's not something that's contemporary with the MPC and you pressing different patterns and things like that, but we'll see how it come out…Everything's really in-house. Of course Dre, but I really stick with four producers that I've been working with since day one. I don't really go outside the box of that soundwave."

The official "i" video lands with a cute cameo from a dancing Isley brother; on November 14, he delivers an electric—his funky new hairdo and blackout contact lenses only fueling the charge—performance of "i" on SNL.

December 2014

Stephen Colbert books Kendrick as his last-ever Colbert Report musical guest. K. Dot took the opportunity to premiere a brand new and then-untitled song with Bilal, Thundercat, Anna Wise, and Terrace Martin behind him. That song became "These Walls" on To Pimp A Butterfly.

An alleged tracklist surfaces, and TDE is quick to call its bluff.

February 2015

On February 9, Taraji P. Henson—aka Cookie from Empire—tweets a link to her "fav" song off "the new joint [Kendrick Lamar] has coming." It's a fiery, Boi-1da produced and Assassin-assisted indictment of oppression that was exactly what the critics of "i" had called for.

A few weeks later, on February 28, Michael Jackson's son Prince says that he too has heard the new album. On Facebook after their private listening, Prince's buddy said it was "on another level." Who hasn't heard this album? (Us.)

March 2015

On March 6, Kendrick formally announces the new album by tweeting a link to the iTunes page. The page is largely scrubbed—no title, no song titles—but it does list a release date: March 23.

A week later, on March 9, Kendrick performs a new verse on Los Angeles' 92.3. Over a classic Biggie beat he spits: From Compton to congress, it's set tripping all around/Ain't nothing new but a flow of new DemoCrips and ReBloodicans/Red state versus a blue state, which one you governing? This verse, it turns out, is from "Hood Politics."

Kendrick posted the cover art—which was shot by French photographer Denis Rouvre—on Instagram on March 11. That same day, Rolling Stone previewed a coming cover story in which they visited the Compton rapper in an L.A. studio. They are allowed to preview six new songs, which are described as "sonically adventuresome" and "[ranging] from the intensely personal to the swaggeringly aggressive." Lamar's longtime producer Sounwave says, "It's just him expressing how he's feeling at the moment. And right now, he's mad."

Afterhours on Friday, March 13, Hot 97 premieres a third—and "unapologetically black," in the words of Pharrell—new track called "King Kunta."

One week ahead of schedule (maybe owing to a possible leak), To Pimp A Butterfly drops. The surprise early rollout was perhaps a little shaky, but Kendrick's doesn't appear to be stressing it.

Here’s A Timeline Of Everything That Led Up To Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly