Kendrick Lamar has made an impressive list of hits throughout his career, but few have the impact that “Alright” – the seventh title on his Grammy Award-winning To Pimp a Butterfly project – has had on the culture. While the song has gone on to become one of the record’s most successful, during a recent sitdown on Spotify’s The Big Hit Showproducer Soundwave explained that it actually nearly didn’t make it on the album.
Wave recalled watching Pharrell play beats for Lamar in the studio when a Sony executive named Sam Taylor took him aside to play a track that the “Happy” hitmaker had originally made for another artist – Fabolous – in 2014.
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“He plays me the skeleton of ‘Alright’ and I just remember my jaw drop,” Soundwave shared. “It was literally just the 808s and the keys, and Pharrell had the melody of ‘We gon’ be alright.” And I was like, ‘Bro, what’s this?’ Oh my goodness, I’m freaking out. And I immediately run, I was like, ‘Dot, you have to come hear this.’ He plays it for Dot, Dot stopped everything he was doing and starts to write to ‘Alright.'”
While he may have fallen in love with the beat, Lamar felt that the heavy jazz and funk influences of To Pimp a Butterfly didn’t vibe with Pharrell’s bouncy production, and was tempted to disregard it. Luckily, Soundwave was determined to make it work with the help of saxophonist Terrace Martin.
“We loved that record so much that I said, ‘Ok, I’m not letting this record die,'” the 36-year-old told Spotify. “I literally have to go back in, last second of the album, like literally at the crunch time, I think we had one more day, and added drums to it.”
“And I just remember about three hours, just me and Terrace locked in that room. We came out, I said, ‘I think we got something.’ We played it for Kendrick. And I just remember him, his eyes lit up. It was like, we did it. This is finally it,” Sounwave went on, adding that he was sitting on the song for “about six months.”
“I knew it was a great record, I just was trying to find the space to approach it. I mean, the beat sounds fun, but there’s something else inside of them chords that Pharrell put down that feels like — it can be more of a statement rather than a tune.”
“P had the ‘alright.’ That’s him on the hook. And what does ‘We are gonna be alright’ represent? I’m glad that sparked the idea ’cause that song coulda went a thousand other ways… I remember hitting P on a text like, ‘Man, I got the lyrics.’ And typing the lyrics to him. he’s like,’That’s it†
Check out the full episode of Spotify’s The Big Hit Show below.