Fresh off a Grammy for what will undoubtedly go down in the hip-hop history books as one of the greatest albums of all-time in To Pimp a Butterfly, it seems Kendrick Lamar can do no wrong even if he tried these days.
His latest offering, simply titled untitled unmastered., is a surprise drop from the Compton emcee that showcases eight previously unreleased tracks seemingly collected during the recording of To Pimp a Butterfly. While it’s not a full-length studio project, Kendrick flexes his creative muscles in a major way on a compilation album that is lyrically, vocally and sonically rich from top to bottom.
While it’s far removed from the next step in the musical evolution of Kendrick Lamar, untitled unmastered. gives fans a second helping of the things that made To Pimp a Butterfly so great. A splattering of demos has never sounded so fresh and focused and that’s a testament to Kendrick’s artistic vision over the course of his sophomore album’s conception.
Packed with layers of free jazz, soul and funk, untitled unmastered. carries an experimental aura all the way through with Kendrick sing-rapping and echoing his way through some of the album’s most intriguing tracks.
“untitled 02” is one such track. Sounding like some kind of drunken dream or helpless cry, Kendrick spends the first part of the song singing in a desperate attempt to “get Top on the phone.” After Top finally answers, we go into more traditional Kendrick verse which becomes increasingly furious as the song reaches its eventual climax.
On “untitled 06,” Kendrick taps CeeLo Green for a perfectly placed feature that brings to mind old Dungeon Family tracks from the late ’90s and early 2000s with production from Ghostface Killah collaborator Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest DJ Ali Shaheed Mohammad. Kendrick’s verses are boasted by jazzy undertones on a track that is almost Andre 3000-esque in essence.
Kendrick certainly saves the best for last with “untitled 08.” Addictively upbeat and oh so funky, the song has that same head-nodding affect of his To Pimp a Butterfly single “King Kunta.” In many ways, it also feels like a G-funk throwback with a more laid-back flow from Kendrick as he as ponders why people are “walking around with them blue faces?”
untitled unmastered. lacks the creative cohesiveness of To Pimp a Butterfly but that’s to be expected from an album that is basically a collection of demos. It’s not as deep or moving as his previous album, but you can’t compare the two because of what untitled unmastered. is as a stand-alone project.
We’re not really getting a fresh serving of Kendrick here, but rather a plate of leftovers from one of the tastiest meals in hip-hop — and yes, these leftovers still taste pretty damn good.
Get at me on Twitter @PatCwiklinski.