“an incredible change of pace by an incredibly brilliant artist”
Kendrick Lamar is a storyteller and a perfectionist. These two qualities have led to two critically-acclaimed, full-length concept albums that have gained national attention with their incredibly well put together over-arching narratives. On Untitled Unmastered, Lamar gives insight to his creative process by avoiding the final product, instead electing to seek artistry in his in-the-moment lyrical thoughts that have been recorded throughout the past couple years.
Aesthetically, the album seems to be the more avant-garde, experimental cuts from the To Pimp a Butterfly era. Terrace Martin and Thundercat are important figures throughout. The pressing bass line of “Untitled 2” combines with Martin’s strained saxophone phrases to accompany the high level of tension in Lamar’s words. This song is contrasted by Kendrick’s carefree nature on “Untitled 7.” Accompanied with lazy guitar playing, Lamar sings out a hook for a song for nearly five minutes. It feels like he’s hanging around in his studio with his band-mates, which provides a really interesting look at how his songs are constructed.
“Untitled 4″ is where the experiments first come into play. Words float in the ambiance rather than over a beat. Themes are touched upon without specification. This continues on the next tune,”Untitled 5,” where modern instrumentals float around in space before Lamar’s verse comes in. The allusive nature of the horns is grounded by the rhythm of Lamar’s words.
The lyrics touch upon many different topics. On “Untitled 1,” Kendrick makes allegories to God as he wonders about the effectiveness of his mission. God “told [him] to use [his] vocals to save mankind,” yet Lamar feels like his work and love are unrequited; “I pushed the curb to the side for you/who love you like I love you.” “Untitled 2″ continues the direct conversing with God as Lamar revisits his struggle to understand his fame:”Get God on the phone/I just got a raise/Spent it all on me.” Here, Lamar feels as if god gifted him for his work rapping but he also feels guilt because his work was not enough to lift the position of his entire race. Although not all along the same exact same lines, Lamar’s lyrics transition cohesively, which shows just how prolific his genius really is. Lamar does not struggle with rhyming, rather he seems to continuously depict his thoughts through rap, resulting in a real-time analysis of his psyche with each song he releases.
Untitled Unmastered is exactly what Lamar needed to release this year. Where To Pimp a Butterfly and Good Kid Ma.a.d City were extensive documentaries about Lamar’s life, Untitled Unmastered was a glimpse behind closed doors, an incredible change of pace by an incredibly brilliant artist.