Kendrick Lamar: Untitled, Unmastered

Billy Lemos, Staff Writer

Don’t let the generic title and tracklist of this album fool you, this is some of Kendrick’s finest music. Released as a compilation of incomplete demos and unreleased tracks from the critically acclaimed “To Pimp a Butterfly”, you would expect this album to be a unrefined mess, full of half-baked tracks. Instead, Kendrick has orchestrated a surprisingly polished, varied, and cohesive album that exceeds expectations.

The album begins with “untitled 01”, where  Kendrick creates a detailed vision of a modern Judgment Day over an eerie and unnerving instrumental. The track contains the lyrical flow and imagery we’ve come to expect from Kendrick. On the second track, “untitled 02”, Kendrick brings back the vibe of “good kid, m.A.A.d city”. Kendrick feels disconnected from his past friends and home in Compton. Cardo’s production on this track is crazy, chock-full of  pounding 808’s and haunting hi-hats that intertwine with a disjointed saxophone melody.

On the track “untitled 03”, Kendrick delivers beautifully crafted verses about racial stereotypes and cultural values over an experimental, jazz influenced instrumental. This is definitely a standout on the album. The next track, “untitled 04”, servers as an interlude, featuring SZA belting a metaphorical chorus as Kendrick whispers advice into her ears. Later, on “untitled 05”, Kendrick discusses the institutionalization of minorities and the social inequalities that living behind bars creates. This track’s hook features Anna Wise singing over an organic and percussive instrumental produced by Nard&B with drums by Sounwave.

This track is followed up by the joyous “untitled 06”, my personal favorite piece on the album. Kendrick expresses his embrace of the imperfections and flaws of those around him. It features a verse from CeeLo Green with a fitting 70’s vibe, both vocally and instrumentally. Next, with “untitled 07”, Kendrick comes back to his early “K. Dot” feel again with a sectioned and well-constructed three part track. It begins with hard, slammed trap drums and a reversed synth. Then, the track’s sound turns to that of the boom-bap era, with natural drums and an easily comprehensible flow. The piece finishes with a live recording from a studio session, showing the the unfinished state of this once-proposed “15 minute song”.

Kendrick closes the album with “untitled 08”, characterizing the financial struggles that many African Americans face and how he has prevailed in spite of them. The track has gentle, soothing chorus vocals and an excellent retro synth backing it.

Overall, “untitled unmastered” is another great entry in the lineup of Kendrick’s records that should not be overlooked.