Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered8th March 2016
Four years have passed since Kendrick released good kid M.A.A.D. City and the hip-hop scene was never the same. Compton’s own child made a smashing career start by bringing a new form of storytelling in his lyrics, showing a different angle of referencing ‘hood’ life in the late 80’s and it’s remarkable how far and distinct his career is developing.
untitled unmastered is K-Dot’s latest work, and since it was released last Friday, it took over our attention!
Ever since To Pimp a Butterfly came out it was easy to see that Kendrick Lamar was aiming for a different course in his career as soon as his fame kicked in. Instead of developing his hip-hop flow or style like most artists do, Kendrick searched other genres like jazz and soul for inspiration, always following his political and social issues that were always present in his music but just took different forms.
This feature is probably the biggest trait in Kendrick’s work: the courage to explore music in different forms than his own and diversifying his music at the same time. His first 2016 release (year isn’t over people!) is made of unfinished demos that were to be part of Butterfly but for some reason didn’t make the cut.
Several things about the album catch attention right away: the release itself, unannounced, hitting streaming services by surprise which set fans (including yours truly) into a frenzy; its presentation, showing a single colour (green) album cover with a discrete title; and the song titles, eight untitled songs (as the album itself) and with the dates of their recording.
This is the album by a music lover, made for music lovers with “musical integrity”, no flash and no complex design to it, just simple and straight to the point.
It’s the content of untitled, unmastered that contrasts with the album’s simple “outside presentation”. Some of the tracks were presented throughout Kendrick’s performances at the Grammys, “The Colbert Report” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”, which featured strong medleys between his known songs and symbolism represented through the scenery on stage.
The music keeps getting deeper with meaning as Kendrick uses several inspirations for his work, like the use of jazzy grooves that reminisce John Coltrane or Sun Ra and the participation of artists from other musical backgrounds like Thundercat, Terrace Martin or Robert Glasper that bring diversity to this compilation.
At the same time, Kendrick’s hip-hop keeps its old school identity with funky rhythms and voice effects/expressions (“booms” and “claps”) that link the lyrics to his original style and freestyle.
When it comes to performance, you can count on Kunta to be on top of his game by challenging us with pure revolt and protest – “my dollars ain’t folding, you never did own me” and showing that like in his “Alright” video, he’s above sound and story.
untitled, unmastered is above all a statement from Kendrick, proving how dedicated he is to his work and showing that fame and exposure don’t make artists compromise their talent and originality. Better than describing the album, we urge you to listen to it!