Album review: Untitled Unmastered by Kendrick Lamar

Reviewing Kendrick Lamar’s newest release, Untitled Unmastered.

Hannah Pederson, Reporter

Untitled Unmastered is the newest release from artist Kendrick Lamar, a compilation of tracks recorded during the making of his album To Pimp a Butterfly. The eight track album has the same overall jazzy, familiar feel of To Pimp a Butterfly, but it seems like Lamar used this opportunity to try out some of his more experimental tracks.

As someone who recently got into Lamar’s music a number of months ago, Untitled Unmastered doesn’t seem to extend too far out of the sounds he normally produces, just enough to be refreshing.

The first track, untitled 01|08.19.2014, feels suspenseful and promising until what comes down to essentially getting sexually assaulted by the vocalist, which makes sense as Lamar’s intent was probably to make the listener uncomfortable. The track feels like Lamar calling attention to the plight of young women, “The ground is shakin’, swallowing young women.” His inflection grows more passionate as he nears the end, his lines punctuated by a lower voice chanting “it’s happening” until it finally slows down and fades away into a much more relaxed harmony. The message Lamar conveys is powerful, and this track carried that message.

Untitled 02|06.23.2014 opens with a pimped-out version of the celebratory phrase hip-hip hooray with a saxophone trilling in and out of the vocals, working its way toward feeling smooth but not quite getting there. Lamar’s voice rises to a break at the end of every phrase, reminiscent of puberty. Lamar gives a dizzying delivery and the song feels like floating. It was kind of stressful, which was aided by “what if, what if,” surfacing through everything else. It was hard to focus on anything else when listening to this track as it just draws the listener in.

The album changes track with untitled 03|05.28.2013, which feels light and effortless. Lamar’s quiet lyrics interspersed with a timid flute makes the listener lean in and pay attention. The lyrics pursue the motivations of different cultures and overall feels pessimistic about whatever future comes to pass. Untitled 03|05.28.2013 is one of the highlights of the album. It can be put on loop for 20 minutes and every time it comes around, a new meaning can be derived.

Untitled 04|08.14.2014 is the shortest track of the album, coming in at under two minutes. Lamar and a female vocalist lead in with quiet, fervent whispers, “They say the government mislead the youth…and welfare don’t mean well for you.” The lyrics have pro-educational undertones, but the song feels like sitting in a graveyard. There might not be enough power in this track to get Lamar’s message across, but it was an interesting experience either way.

The album comes back down with untitled 05|09.21.2014, one of the jazziest tracks full of erratic sax. This song features three guest artists, Anna Wise providing smooth hypnotic vocals that the listener is so wrapped up in they don’t notice that Lamar opened his rap, which assaults the listener with everything minorities have to face. Artists Punch and Jay Rock contribute to the desperate feel of the track, which carries itself well enough.

Untitled 06|06.30.2014 has a faster rhythm punctuated with a falling flute and what sounds like a xylophone that features the artist Cee Lo Green. Lamar and Green’s delivery creates a soothing dissonance that contrasts with the male insecurities the lyrics explore.

The seventh track, untitled 07|2014-2016, is more than eight minutes and split into three noticeable parts. The first part is somewhat laid back, but the repetitive lyrics create a false sense of security as it leads into part two, which seems like a challenge to competitors. Part three is sexually charged with straight vocals underlaid with a few notes plucked out of an electric guitar. Overall, it was a bit underwhelming and probably could have achieved its effect better with just the first two parts.

Untitled 08|09.06.2014 is decidedly funky with a strong beat that’s easy to listen to. Soft vocals supported by choral “ohs” go back and forth between desperation and hints at optimism before ending the album with a “pimp pimp…hooray!”

Untitled Unmastered might technically be the rejects from a bigger album, but none of the tracks felt subpar to anything that appeared on To Pimp a Butterfly. It’s easy to follow and makes the listener feel like they were on some emotional odyssey that they’d go on again and again.

4 Star Rating

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Hannah Pederson

Album review: Untitled Unmastered by Kendrick Lamar

by Hannah Pederson time to read: 3 min