Review: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Untitled Unmastered’
Clark Herring – Special to the Southern News
Eerie, ominous, soulful, rocking, and rapping, all characteristics that define Kendrick Lamar’s newest work, “Untitled Unmastered.” The album, which is available for streaming on Spotify, is a collection of songs the rapper worked on during the process of creating his grammy nominated masterpiece “To Pimp A Butterfly,” which released in early 2015. None of the tracks have actual titles, across the eight pieces they are simply titled “Untitled” with their corresponding number, and the date at which the piece was completed.
It starts off with a deep voice, talking to someone about how to please them in a sexual way, followed up by Kendrick rapping opening verses. It truly is an interesting start to the album, as it sets the tone that Lamar wanted to create something that would make his listeners happy, that they would find aesthetically pleasing.
Across the course of the album, the lyrics convey a message that deals with problems facing much of today’s youth. Identity, financial stability, relationships, racism, bias, the government and more, are all subjects that are placed under the microscope.
What is most interesting about this album is that it reflects much of the sound he was trying to grasp from “To Pimp A Butterfly,” such as the elements of jazz, blues, bluegrass, soul, and R&B. All of these are scattered about the album, and at the end of track seven, there is a solid minute where Kendrick is singing, yes, singing, soulful blues to the sound of country guitar in a Gary Clark Jr.-like fashion.
In the beginning of the track, he spits eerie words that say “love won’t get you high as this, drugs won’t get you high like this, fame won’t get you high like this, change won’t get you high like this,” exemplifying the power of words in song and the power it has to inspire people.
But more than just the wordplay of this song, the musicianship is something incredible. Transitioning from a hypnotic psychedelic beat into more traditional blues music is what Kendrick does so impressively. It is like listening to a different artist entirely. The arrangement of many of these tracks are like his last album, it almost that it sounds like an extended version of “To Pimp A Butterfly.”
However, there is no doubt that these are merely rough edits of songs that are not fully produced to their best ability. There are some moments of shaky experimentations that could be adjusted, but that would defeat the purpose of what Kendrick arranged this album for. Apart from this, the album is without a doubt a masterpiece. The lyricism, musicianship and narrative of his work, and the fact that it is all a composition of drafts makes this 35-minute track-list something worthwhile.
Photo Credit: Gozamos