By Wes Clary
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Album: Untitled Unmastered
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment
Release Date: March 4, 2016
West coast rapper, Kendrick Lamar, has just dropped a surprise compilation album with the unique title of Untitled Unmastered. The set of tracks are not necessarily new, but demo tracks and raw cuts of songs that did not make it onto the final pressing of his 2015 release, To Pimp a Butterfly. Untitled Unmastered is an appropriate title to the collection and acts as a companion album to Butterfly, similar to what you would find on a bonus disc for a deluxe version of a CD. The songs are not mastered and sound much more raw and gritty versus the very extravagant production on Butterfly. But despite all this, it’s still amazing. Unmastered is complete with the soul and jazz-rap that we know Lamar can do so well.
Unmastered came out of nowhere with little sign beforehand. Recently, Lamar had performed unknown songs during his live television performances on The Colbert Report, The Tonight Show and the 2016 Grammy Awards. These tracks show up on Unmastered, but still incomplete in ways as they are more in forms of an unfinished thought rather than a complete song. There were only a few hints to the general public about an actual release coming from an Instagram photo taken a couple weeks prior by Lamar’s record label, Top Dawg Entertainment, which showcased a written on dry erase board that read KDot was to release an album sometime in 2016. It is also speculated that pro NBA star LeBron James was also part reason of release after taking to Twitter to ask Lamar to release the untitled songs from the Butterfly sessions. Though we are not 100 percent positive that this is the only release that Top Dawg Entertainment were alluding to in their photo, we can only cross our fingers and hope that there will be more to come this year and enjoy what we have right now.
Just like the album’s name, all the songs are untitled as well. For example, track one is titled, “Untitled 01” with the subtitle “06.16.2014”. The subtitles are all dates and refer to the moment in time Lamar either was working on or finished recording the track. What’s great about this set of eight songs, is that every track is very good and well written. If you enjoyed the jazz and G-funk mixture of Butterfly, these songs will most likely appeal to you as well. Many of the same themes arise as Lamar raps over a complete band, including the return of Butterfly bassist Thundercat. Lyrical themes include social inequality, humanity and his conflict between his younger life as a child from Compton and dealing with fame. “Say I didn’t try for you/ say I didn’t ride for you/ I tithed for you/ I pushed the club to the side for you/ Who love you like I love you,” Lamar raps on “Untitled 01”. I have always seen Kendrick Lamar as a voice for the people much like how west coast rapper 2Pac represented himself. On the track “Untitled 06”, Lamar is talking to the youth in the world and to embrace their unique talents no matter what, “My mama told me that I was different the moment I was invented/ Estranged baby/ no I’m not ashamed/ I recommend every inch of your lunatic ways.”
Unmastered may not be a complete record in the sense but it’s not as if Lamar is passing it off as a complete project anyways. With its title and the low production, it is clear that this is how he wants the album to be heard. No, there are no radio singles and some songs will end abruptly, but take this more as a gift from Lamar with remembering the fact that there is a chance that these songs may have never seen the light of day. In the end, Untitled Unmastered should be appreciated for what it really is: a nice group of tracks that complement one of the best albums of the past year. Pimp pimp hooray!
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