untitled unmastered.: unapologetic.

Glenn Rohrbacker

Pull Kendrick Lamar’s surprise new record up and all you see is a vomit-green colored gradient cover, with two small words on the top left, leaving a lot to the imagination. Kendrick has wasted no time after his personal record of winning five Grammy’s a few weeks ago. On Friday, he released his latest record called untitled unmastered. And it is just that. Combining the lyrical complexity of To Pimp a Butterfly with the ethereal sounds of good kid, m.A.A.d city, plus some original sounds that are foreign to modern hip-hop. I don’t know whether to call this project an album, a mixtape, an EP or what. I think Kendrick is the only person that really knows. We got a taste of one song, titled “untitled 02,” from his performance on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon a couple months ago, but not being able to find the song online or download it or stream it on Spotify, it didn’t make too many waves. This surprise venture is special to Kendrick, and you can tell by the words in his music and the way he went about this release. Each song is titled (or lack thereof) “untitled 01-08,” and each one includes a date. This date could be the day it was written, recorded or something significant to Kendrick. Most of the dates fall in 2014, with one in 2013.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

If there’s a central theme to the record, it’s reality. The mundane and modified synths make you feel confused, but in a good way. Kendrick layers this with his strong beats and unmatched ability to spit rhymes. The best song on the record is “untitled 06,” which features Cee-Lo Green. This is a straight jazzy/funk record that you can dance to. With that said, it’s the only one on the record. Much of Kendrick’s music refuses to follow the pop music model that even a lot of modern hip-hop artists have fallen into. The second half of the 8-minute-long “untitled 7” is pretty much Kendrick and his collaborators working out melodies and hooks over a bass line and beat. This is a window into the Kendrick writing process, which is pretty much behind closed doors. The album opens with “untitled 01,” which fades in with ambient jazz sounds and proceeds to add provocative spoken vocals on top. “No more running from world wars, no more discriminating the poor,” Kendrick yells. Another recurring theme to the record is the chant heard before several songs: “pimp pimp, hooray!” Kendrick has also been experimenting using his own singing voice, in his own strange way, on songs like “untitled 02.”

The raw, unapologetic cuts that Kendrick took for this album are unmatched so far this year, similar to what he did last year with To Pimp a Butterfly. Kendrick Lamar is changing the face of hip-hop with every mixtape he drops. He uses mostly live musicians, gives Compton a name again, and highlights the many social issues in this country. When have you ever heard someone rap by whispering? Only Kendrick Lamar.