Genre: Hip Hop
Released: March 4, 2016
Right now, Kendrick Lamar is probably the hottest rapper in business; just in the last year his album To Pimp A Butterfly was the most acclaimed album of 2015, as well as a humongous commercial success; he featured on songs by superstars like Kanye West and Taylor Swift; on the side he won a bunch of Grammys. As if he hadn’t been busy enough, he’s now pumping out the second album within the span of a year. Fortunately we do not have fear about Lamar burning out like a student’s money during a pub crawl, as he has made it pretty clear that untitled unmastered. is not a follow-up for To Pimp A Butterfly, rather than a collection of demos and recordings around the album. Instead of names, the tracks from the album are labeled only with obscure dates, and references to Butterfly are thrown around near constantly. Some of the tracks were recorded but ultimately cut probably because of their more experimental nature; some of them are afterthoughts regarding the award-winning album; some are just tracks that Lamar has performed live and wanted to get out there to avoid bootlegs.
Lamar continues the on the same dark lyrical waters as with Butterfly, tackling similar, politically charged and deeply psychological themes. However, musically he has inhaled quite deeply from the glue bottle labeled “experimental”, flirting with genres like avant-garde, free jazz and funk. This gives the album a brand new coat of paint beyond just the “To Pimp A Butterfly Demos” concept, and makes the album infinitely more interesting. Some of the tracks have surprising hit potential; if not for their odd instrumentation, tracks like the soul-influenced “untitled 06” and “untitled 08” would fit right in on Butterfly, side by side with hits like “King Kunta” or “i”, after quick renaming of course.
Unfortunately, every now and then the less pleasant side of ‘freeform demo’ raises its ugly head: some of the transitions are clunky; the second half of “untitled 07” is just one riff that Lamar and the crew verbally riff over, laughing and joking about how they’re going to “jam for 15 minutes”. It shows that the guys clearly had fun in the studio, but also drags on too long. Thankfully the album’s general quality easily smoothes out such tiny faults.
I was afraid that untitled unmastered. might just be a glorified version of the Disc 2 that usually gets released with a deluxe edition of an album. Fortunately, on untitled unmastered. Kendrick Lamar proves to be on the height of his creativity, occasionally even excelling the landmark that is To Pimp A Butterfly; showcasing exactly why he’s the hottest rapper in business.