By Alec Matuszak
Kendrick Lamar has come a long way since his rap career took of in 2010. Starting with a free mixtape called Overly Dedicated, Lamar, whose real name is Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, has quickly taken his place as one of the most prominent rappers in hip hop today. Less than a year after the rapper released his Grammy award-winning album “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar released a new project called “Untitled Unmastered.”
With his newest project, Kendrick seems to be following the newest trend of the surprise digital-first release, allowing his fans to listen to his work through various music subscription services including Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, and many more, before releasing the product for physical purchase. Release strategy aside, the musical content of the album is what matters most.
As with many Kendrick Lamar projects, the production is topnotch. This project is meant to be a collection of leftovers and unmastered material (hence the name) and in many ways it certainly feels that way. The production feels a lot more abstract than the traditional beats that rap fans are used to listening to. Throughout the project, Kendrick rhymes over jazz-influenced beats with horns and other brass instruments underneath his voice.
Sticking with the “untitled unmastered” theme, none of these tracks have traditional names. Instead, each song starts out with the word “untitled” followed by a number and a date. Unmastered most likely refers to the quality of the recording itself. “Mastering” is a term used when recording to make sure that each of the individual parts of the song blend well and evenly together. Not the case with this album. The recoding is a bit “dirty” sounding and intentionally the songs sometimes feel like they are meant to be taken one at a time. Kendrick Lamar still manages to tie together these “leftovers,” most notably by repeating certain phrases at the start or end of each track. For example, Kendrick exclaims “Pimp Pimp… Hooray!” in many tracks.
Uniqueness is something many Kendrick Lamar fans expect, and they will not be let down here. The way Kendrick raps, his flows, his cadence and his lyrics are all unique in their own way. Hip-hop fans expect the best out of Kendrick Lamar, especially since he calls himself “King Kendrick” at almost every opportunity where it may be relevant. While this album may be unique in many ways, it still is the same Kendrick Lamar many know and love – which isn’t a bad thing by any means. The ghetto, Christianity, money; these are all topics that Kendrick Lamar has spoken about before in great detail. This makes sense considering many of these cuts are old, so it is interesting to revisit certain times in the rapper’s life.
These leftover tracks that Kendrick has released are better than many other rappers’ best work, which makes Mr. Duckworth that more appealing. Even with material that Kendrick Lamar deems not worthy of making an album, this project is enjoyable from start to finish. This should absolutely hold Kendrick fans over until his next major release. Until then, these “leftovers” will suffice just fine.