While not strictly a follow-up to the milestone ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, Kendrick Lamar surprise-released ‘Untitled Unmastered’, and showed the world yet more of the creativity that went into making of 2015’s critically adored LP.
With blank artwork, no proper album or song titles, ‘Untitled Unmastered‘ is a series of demos recorded over the past three years that have been put together to form a short but very sweet album. While it may sound like a collection of offcuts in order to cash in on current success, nothing could be further from the truth. ‘Untitled Unmastered’ plays like a proper LP. It’s cohesive, raw and completely fearless. This album feels like a gift to listeners ears, particularly as it was another surprise release (which 2016 has seen plenty of), with dry, sultry production.
Lamar was said to have not mastered the album because he wanted it to be “100 percent authentic” and that has been duly achieved with upright bass, subtle snare drums, hi-hat percussion and squeaking saxophone all forming a jazz influence. It has an effortless cool that Miles Davis would have been proud of.
With his rapping, Lamar bides his time before letting loose with vivid wordology – images of a dying planet on ‘Untitled 01’, and faith and sexuality on ‘Untitled 02’, where he experiments with a frail sounding voice. Avant-garde melodies are peppered throughout, which gives the record a murky, apocalyptic backdrop. ‘Untitled 06’ features Cee Lo Green on guest vocals with an injection of melody and lush strings, while ‘Untitled 05’ is awash with free jazz. ‘Untitled 07’ is one long track of different jams that give you an idea of where the Californian rapper’s creativity is taking him. Just like the album, the jams all flow together and don’t feel merely tacked on.
Recurring themes make themselves known in the album’s 34 minutes, none more noticeable than the echoey and slightly haunting “Pimp, pimp…hooray!” chant that appears a number of times and are also the last words spoken on the album. On ‘Untitled Unmastered’ there’s so much crammed into the short running time that you’ll go back for more and more stuff you’ve missed, but it’s all gently spaced out.
While the rest of the world has gushed over the virtues of Kendrick Lamar, the man himself has just shrugged his shoulders and remained one step ahead. He has kept his ear to the ground, worked his own unique way and continues to astound.
‘Untitled Unmastered’ is out now via Interscope Records
This Kendrick Lamar review was written by Daniel Luscombe, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard.