by Drew Lacouture
From one of modern music’s most important figures, Kendrick Lamar’s surprise B-side collection continues to challenge Hip-Hop fans with gorgeous compositions and lyrics that take multiple listens to appreciate.
It appears the collaborative album with J. Cole will have to wait. However, these eight tracks are more than enough to hold fans over. It is not a fourth album per se but the impeccable qualities of Kendrick’s masterful “To Pimp a Butterfly” make their way to the surface here.
To most artists, releasing a collection like this would be a mere excuse to steal money from fans. This is certainly not the case here. These tracks are dripping in texture and provide just as much potency as Kendrick’s past material. There are thoughts left unsaid that Kendrick wanted to display, but simply could not at the time.
As the title suggests, these tracks have no worded titles and surprisingly are ordered differently than they were recorded. Furthermore, some lyrics were changed to fit his context. All this was done to give the tracks a narrative as all Kendrick projects do and the political opener “untitled 01” even states “I made To Pimp a Butterfly ‘fore you told me/to use my vocals to save man-kind for you.”
“Untitled 02” allows listeners to delve back into the insanity that Kendrick experienced on “u” and “For Sale.” During his final verse he makes the hilarious lyric “Might tell Obama be more like Punch/Sounwave caught a Grammy last year/Mack wop, bet he do what he want/F*** you n****, level two I’m not done.”
“Untitled 04” is a short interlude that seems sweet at the surface, but is actually a battle between Kendrick worshiping God and his evil and tempting accomplice Lucy from “TPAB.”
What seem to be gospel vocals in the forefront, there are quick whispers between the words that are talking to Kendrick about bad things that have happened in his life. It is actually quite haunting especially because the track crescendos as it goes on, as if Lucy is winning the battle. It would have been interesting to hear the track in the context of the full album.
Similar to Kendrick’s poem in “TPAB,” there are several tracks that repeat the chant “Pimp Pimp, Hooray.” and it seems to be one his most braggadocios tracks. It could be interpreted as a victory yell for his massive success.
If there is one thing this album lacks, its catchy hooks, (besides “Untitled 08”) which might explain why some of these tracks did not make the cut. The only track that has a melodic refrain is “I Can’t Explain” on “Untitled 06” which actually features CeeLo Green. It is a beautiful and soulful track that revolves around self-love, something Kendrick is a master at talking about at this point.
The best instrumental on the album is certainly the jazz inspired “Untitled 05.” The track features great performances from Anna Wise, saxophonist Kamasi Washington and fellow MC’s Punch and Jay-Rock. Those who watched Kendrick’s performance at the Grammy’s this year might recognize Kendrick’s verse on this track.
Several other songs might sound familiar for fans. “Untiled 03” is a recorded version of his performance on “The Colbert Report” before “TPAB” was even released.
“Untitled 08” is such a fun and thought provoking song to finish the project with, and is the recorded version of his performance on “The Tonight Show” this past January. The third verse is an incredibly creative outro in which Kendrick plays a character that is criticizing him: “I paid my way through by waiting on Allah, you played your way through by living in sci-fi.”
The long winded three part “Untitled 07” is nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster. It begins as a banger that could have fit onto “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City.” The second part is the highlight of the song that is a simple battle rap with some fiery lines: “Hope it’s evident that I inspired a thousand emcees to do better/ I blew cheddar on youth centers, buildings and Bimmers and blue leather.”
The third part of “Untiled 07” is a jam session that is the only weak part of the record. It is interesting hearing Kendrick’s creative process but it just was not a necessary addition. The first part is an exhilarating fun ride, the second part is the emotional high and the third part can be seen as the come down afterwards.
If “To Pimp a Butterfly” is the movie then “Untitled Unmastered” is the rewarding post credit scene. Calling these eight tracks throwaways is wrong in the same way calling Kendrick’s soundscape just “rap music” is wrong.
There is so much to dissect on this short record between his message and the connections it has to other songs. These tracks deserved to see the light of day because they are all incredible fusion pieces.
Not only is Kendrick paving the way for Hip-Hop music, he is making B-side albums that are better than most rappers full length releases.
The Flyer gives Kendrick Lamar’s “Untitled Unmastered.” a 9/10.