Kendrick Lamar is one of those rare talents that can seemingly disappear and reappear as if nothing happened. For a while the sequel to 2015’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ has been more rumoured than a Frank Ocean follow up, until out of nowhere like a spitting star, we suddenly find ourselves with a new record. It’s a “New record” in the loosest sense though, a collection of unreleased demos and tracks from sessions between 2013 and 2016, namely recorded through the release of ‘To Pimp…’. The fact that each track and the album itself have no solid names or identifications implies that this is not quite the tangible coherent piece we’ve been lusting for, but more of a potential thirst quencher until we have full on new material.
Lamar fully rolled the hype train out of the station after his Grammys performance, which didn’t just touch upon racial stereotypes, but completely slapped the captivated audience, both at home and in the room, into having to actually acknowledge these issues. Which leads us back to untitled unmastered, either a masterfully planned release or a spontaneous drop on a hype-whim. Either way this collection of cuts just goes to prove that Lamar is one of the generations greatest rappers.
What separates those who are destined to write timeless rhymes from those who are in it for the gold and glory is respect for what came before – those who laid the foundations upon which this new generation can build their art form. Lamar is in no doubt at the forefront of this. ’untitled unmastered’ is littered with free jazz, funk, soul and ominous, haunting soundscapes. To go into depth about each track on this collection would require an article of its own, as the subjects Lamar covers with extreme poise and grace are dark but completely necessary. ’untitled 01 | 08.19.2014.’ is put in place to give a little perspective to everything going on in the world, just in case you missed it. ‘untitled 02 | 06.23.2014.’ is where things get really interesting, being a take on his current state of mental limbo, where he’s now a household name worldwide, while his peers are going through the cyclical ghetto lifestyle. ‘untitled 03 | 05.28.2013.’ tackles racial stereotyping in the most perfect way possible. By breaking the verses down into four stereotypes, Asian, Indian, Black and White, each one presented as advice toward Lamar, it enables him to comment upon each one’s trademarks with complete autodidact. You can almost imagine these conversations having happened to him. ‘untitled 04 | 08.14.2014.’ and ‘untitled 05 | 09.21.2014.’, are both majorly jazz and funk driven tracks, with the former being restrained and flowing beautifully into the latter.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this record is the fact it makes CeeLo Green mildly relevant again. His appearance on ‘untitled 06 | 06.30.2014.’ is a soulful representation of what made CeeLo a popular figure in the first place, not to mention he complements Lamar’s vocal cadence, adding a softer second dimension. ‘untitled 07 | 2014 – 2016.’ is perhaps the most incomplete, yet revealing, track on the record. Coming in at over eight minutes long and with no discernible date in the title, it’s more of a choice selection of studio cuts rather than a finished track, evolving from verse to verse until it hits a section where it drops into what could be just a microphone in the control room of the studio with the humane side of Lamar making an appearance. Finale ‘untitled 08 | 09.06.2014.’ sees the most funk inspiration, it wouldn’t be amiss from the ‘Jackie Brown’ soundtrack.
Though this isn’t quite a brand new fully formed album of Kendrick Lamar material, it is certainly a wealthy insight into the mind and working of an artist who is quite rightly considered a genius, just without any of the added self-hype or media hysteria.