Kendrick Lamar is widely considered to be one of the best rappers in the game right now, if not the absolute best, and with that status comes a lot of pressure. 2015 saw his release of To Pimp a Butterfly, a brilliant album that rightfully made it to the top of many year-end best-of lists and won him a slew of Grammys. This time around, untitled unmastered. takes the demos from that record and shows us that his political persona has a playful side too. “untitled 02” isn’t the most upbeat track, but it’s certainly the most compelling – Kendrick’s voice has incredible range, technologically aided or not, and it shines when he goes from singing “Seen black turn ’em burgundy” to “Get God on the phone”, supposedly to repent for his numerous sins.
He still raps about his past, gang violence and addiction, but interspersed are light-hearted jokes about sex and the wild success he’s attained over the past few years. “untitled 07” bears a lot of similarity to “untitled 02”, but it stretches for eight minutes (which we hear Kendrick make fun of when he remarks “This is a fifteen-minute song!” halfway through) and helps the record feel more like an off-the-cuff, stream-of-consciousness body of work rather than a polished studio album.
Kendrick Lamar’s talent is unquestionable, but for everyone who wants to pigeonhole him as a socially conscious rapper, untitled unmastered. is quite an eloquent refutation. “untitled 05” has a jazzy intro coupled with vocals from Anna Wise that contrast beautifully with Kendrick’s more straightforward verses. He has comments about the broken justice system, but he also discusses his own self-doubt and insecurity (“I fall behind my skeleton, they tell me that I’m blind / “I know that I’m intelligence, my confidence just died”). These eight tracks feel purely selfish in the best way possible, and like fans are finally able to realize who the true Kendrick is, no holds barred. “untitled 03” and “untitled 08” are even less like bona fide rap songs and more like something you could hear on the dance floor, given a proper remix.
Thankfully this rapper from Compton continues to impress millions, even when it seems like he’s not trying very hard at all. We’re lucky that we get to see another side of him with this release. Haters, doubters, and skeptics need to wake up and realize what the rest of us have known all along – when Kendrick drops new music, it’s exciting, and untitled unmastered. is definitely worth losing your mind over.