The long- (not very long) awaited follow up to To Pimp A Butterfly is out. How does (the) one follow To Pimp a Butterfly? He does it without hesitation. Hinting at a new record by playing a new song at the Grammys (who proceeded to overlook him once again), we weren’t sure what to expect. Then Kendrick released his album today by releasing a track list on Spotify, and then following it 6 hours later with the album untitled unmastered..
So how do you follow To Pimp a Butterfly? With a very simply produced rap-centric album. This album is not ground breaking in itself, it’s not Kendrick’s most powerful album in itself, and it isn’t Kendrick’s masterpiece in itself. But this isn’t an album within itself.
This album is part of a long scheme of someone that is far more intelligent and far more humanely present than most. This album follows a transcendent, racial, statement of power, fear, anger, and hope. That album followed an album of pure hip hop and a statement of his budding genius and skill. Now, comes this album. 34 minutes of simple Kendrick Lamar. With no Kanye, no Snoop, and no high octane features, Kendrick’s style, his word, and his ideas are becoming clearer. I am not going to pretend I know exactly what Kendrick is doing, but what I can tell you is that it goes way beyond music and gets deeper, more confusing, and simultaneously it gets clearer, and more relatable through every song.
Now let’s go to the song by song review. The album named untitled unmastered. is 34 minutes and has 8 songs. The songs are all numbered, untitled, and dated. Running from 05.23.2013 to 09.21.2014 in no particular order, it starts with “Untitled 1 | 08.19.2014”, in which Kendrick speaks from the perspective of himself as a conflicted prophet/savior. This song brings us into his life after To Pimp A Butterfly, the expectations put on him, and the power he received. Shifting into in the next song “Untitled 2 | 06.23.2014”, comes a brokenly jazzy song full of haunting singing, an ominous beat, and lyrics that bring you from your world to the fright of Kendrick’s. This moves into a higher energy song “Untitled 03| 05.23.2013” in which Kendrick takes different perspectives of American Culture. He speaks from black culture, from native culture, and white culture, pressing again the racism within the structures around him and his community. We then come to a vocal showcase of a female voice I don’t recognize. It’s jazzy and powerful and is complimented with a few other singers and some hype work from Kendrick. “Untitled 04 | 08.14.2014” is as experimental as it gets. “Untitled 05 | 09.21.2014” and “Untitled 06 | 06.30.2014” follow up with jazz and bass focused beats and classic Kendrick. If you don’t get those songs, you just don’t. “Untitled 07 | 2014 -2016” is a narration. An 8 minute song that declares Kendrick as the powerful King he is and that ends with a path back to humanity with in studio banter, and a long outro. The last song “Untitled 08 | 09.06.2014” concludes his album with an upbeat positive song that has resemblance to “i” and “Alright”. It is a fantastic fusion of motown sounds and the Kendrick we all love.
Kendrick will forever have more going on in his albums than most of us can understand, but if we could understand everything he did, he wouldn’t have the power he has. His intelligence and talent will be the vehicle from a genius to the public. untitled unmastered. is what we expect from Kendrick, and we expect a lot.
Pimp Pimp. Hooray.
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