untitled unmastered (2016)
Rap / Hip-Hop
Top Dawg / Aftermath / Interscope
Here I am, late on a Thursday night (or early Friday morning) listening to a new Kendrick Lamar album. Who would have thought? Earlier today I didn’t have this intention but a couple of rumors here and a few tweets there and here we are with a new K-Dot album upon us. This surprise followed the news that Top Dawg Entertainment was going to release new music from one of their artists, but none expected it to be from their magnum opus.
untitled unmastered, the simply titled fourth studio album from the Compton rapper is a different breed of album than what you would expect. Within the confines of the eight track project are a series of, like the title suggests, untitled tracks that have been released and performed over the past couple of years, more specifically from 2013-2016. Some of these tracks might sound familiar, while others are most certainly deep cuts that we are not too familiar with. A lot of them have been performed on Late Night shows like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Colbert Report. So…why release an album full of untitled tracks? Well, if you’re a rapper like Kendrick, why not? However, you can probably point to Lebron James, who tweeted this out following Kendrick’s Grammy performance:
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 23, 2016
After replying back to the tweet, CEO of TDE Tiffith got to work putting the project together. What we have is a unique project that contains a lot of thought-provoking raps mixed with some top-notch production. Don’t let the second part of the album’s title fool you, there seems to be a lot of “mastering” that has been done, putting a nice audible touch on the album.
In terms of content, Kendrick’s verses are similar fare to what you can find on the rapper’s widely acclaimed album To Pimp A Butterfly. Everything from the broken government system to minorities are rapped about among the different tracks. The third track on the album, which was performed on The Colbert Show is a thought-provoking tune dives into the pieces of advice that different minorities have given Kendrick, with the major twist being the “piece” that white people have taken from the rapper. It’s an interesting perspective that lends itself to a pretty cool concept.
Some other highlights include track five, which features some guest verses from Ab-Soul and Jay Rock. These two weren’t the only guests to appear on the album either. Cee-Lo Green, Terrace Martin, Bilal, Thundercat, and Anna Wise all lent their talents to the project. Since the album was sparse on its credits, I could be missing a few names as well. Finally, the second to last song on the album is a three-part powerhouse, produced by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats’ five-year-old son, Egypt. The track was mesmerizing and was diverse in sound as well, which was surprising given the fact that it was produced by a five-year-old. Like, what?! I have to tip my hat to Kendrick for allowing such a young and talented mind to be part of the project. It’s something you don’t really see today in rap.
The album has a raw vibe to it and that is what I appreciated the most about it. untitled unmastered is a fresh and unique piece of work that contains a diverse set of sounds along with some intelligent and mind-bending lyrics. What else would you expect from Kendrick? I wouldn’t mark this project as being superior to To Pimp A Butterfly or good kid, m.A.A.d. city, but I still think it is an essentially addition to his discography.