Featured Image by Derek Brad
Rapper extraordinaire Kendrick Lamar a.k.a. Cornrow Kenny a.k.a. King Kendrick pulled a Beyoncé, so to speak, by surprising the world with an 8-track album titled…well, untitled unmastered, and people went NUTS. The album might sound familiar as half of the tracks have been performed on various shows, including The Colbert Report, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and this year’s Grammy Awards, but Lamar changes them slightly on the record. Either way, the album that is made up of demos from 2015’s epic album To Pimp a Butterfly (according to Lamar on Twitter) still brings all of Lamar’s soul, drive, and persistent flow as if it was another, actually expected album.
untitled unmastered is so deeply personal (some can debate that Lamar is the most brutally honest rapper in the industry) and touches on topics like religion, success in the music industry, justice, and depression, much like some of the topics covered on TPAB. However, the tracks on this surprise album seem more raw and to be leftover pieces to the big puzzle that was To Pimp A Butterfly. “untitled 02|06.23.2014,” which contains the second verse from Lamar’s performance on The Tonight Show, touches on religion, in addition to self-reflection and Lamar’s position in the rap game. It’s apparent, especially in the second verse, that although Lamar is continuously humbled by his success, he knows his position in the industry, especially with the line “I can put a rapper on life support/Guarantee that’s something none of you want.”
“untitled 03 | 05.28.2013” lays out the biggest concerns of different races, according to Lamar. He sets up the song to have frequent collaborator and singer Anna Wise ask, “What did the ___ say?,” referring to either Asian, Indian, Black, and White man. These lyrics brutally reveal Lamar’s conflicting mindset between being successful and putting money into the pockets of record label moguls, especially the following lines: “(What the white man say?)/A piece of mine’s/That’s what the white man wanted when I rhyme/Telling me that he selling me just for $10.99/If I go platinum from rapping, I do the company fine,” which brings up the question: who is working for whom?
“untitled 07 | 2014-2016,” the track (unbelievably) produced by producer Swizz Beatz’s five-year-old son Egypt, not only has a unique flow, but is sonically split into three parts. The first part of the song repeats that either love, drugs, fame, juice, chains, Bentleys, “For Free? (likely referencing the interlude track on TPAB), and other things, can’t get one as high as this, with “this” likely being money, while the second part calls out the competition, citing that “you sound frantic, I hear panic in your voice/Just know the mechanics of making your choice and writin’ your bars” and that “Before you step out of line and dance with the star/ I could never end a career if it never start,” which really brings out Lamar’s confidence and truly proves why he calls himself King.
untitled unmastered is a trove of hidden treasures that Kendrick Lamar generously released to the world, at the encouragement of NBA superstar LeBron James after he raved about Lamar’s Grammy performance on Twitter. But, even though fans are ecstatic, one can’t help but wonder if some of the songs on the album should have just been kept as untitled tracks, only heard through their unique live performances? Not all of the tracks on the album have been performed, but there is a difference between the live performance of “untitled 03 | 05.28.2013” and the recorded version. Would it have been better to have a recording of the performance on the album? It’s not a unique debate, but with the way Lamar revealed the unknown tracks before releasing the album, it reignites the debate between which sounds better. All we know is that whatever you want to call untitled unmastered, it was and continues to be a masterpiece that can stand on its own.
What did you think of untitled unmastered? Should it have been released? Have a listen below and let us know in the comments after the jump!