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Courtesy of Pitchfork

Kendrick’s unreleased tracks prove to be genius

Kendrick Lamar’s compilation album features hidden gems that didn’t make it into past albums.

By Madison Skahill | March 21, 2016

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Kendrick Lamar once again quenched the poetic thirst of devout listeners March 4 when he unexpectedly dropped his album, “untitled unmastered.” All the tracks are named “untitled” with a number and a date and fit perfectly with the mysteriously titled album.

The compilation album features eight tracks, all untitled but dated, that are confirmed unreleased demo tracks from the recording of his third studio album, “To Pimp a Butterfly.” Kendrick left audiences curious earlier this year, after a handful of late-night television show performances at which he premiered a few live versions of these unknown tracks, but the release of this most recent album clearly answered all of those curiosities.

His undeniable jazz undertones and edgy voice inflections on this album, along with a handful of guest vocals from artists like CeeLo Green, Jay Rock and SZA, set “untitled unmastered” right up there alongside our expectations with the rest of his previous art. It’s ingenious.

Kendrick opens the album with “untitled 01|8.19.2014.,” which right out the gates offers the listener a lustful, almost uncomfortable spoken intro by Bilal, setting you up for the anxious track that unfolds. Kendrick throws out intense diction paired with stammered and rushed lines that give an immediate sense of urgency, and we begin to realize that he is elaborating on the chaos of an inevitable rapture. Kendrick is reflecting on a fear of this judgment day, and we are even given slight hints of absurdism, with lyrics like “I guess I’m running in place trying to make it to church”; this skepticism is contrasted with Kendrick’s thoughts and feelings on purpose, and this same contrast can be noticed throughout the album.

In almost every track following this, Kendrick paints a picture for listeners of an inner struggle between two minds of thought, the conflict between the ways of the street life he was raised amidst, and his purposeful role as an artist in society. The track “untitled 02|6.23.2014.” features obvious vocal mutations on Kendrick’s part, representing his flip between these mentalities as he moves through the song, leaving the listener bouncing back and forth trying to play catch up with his thoughts. The same, practically in-your-face discussion of the two different mindsets is heard in “untitled 05|9.21.2014.,” which features a frantic, slightly unraveled jazz tempo that lends furthermore to the frantic nature of the experience that he is trying to describe.

Kendrick takes on other heavy subjects and ties in themes from “To Pimp a Butterfly,” for example in “untitled 03|5.28.2013.” when he puts out an undeniable slashing of the exploitative role of the white man in the hip hop industry, and elaborates on the art behind the music that is being disregarded in exchange for its profitability. He does manage, however, to close out the album with a more upbeat track that will have anyone with even a slight rhythmic inclination bumping along to the refreshing mix and buoyant lyrical play.

Following his previous studio albums, this surprise compilation release does everything but disappoint. Whether you were an initial fan of Kendrick or not, this album is packed with musical variety and intrigue, and it’s worth a listen.

Purposefully rooted in characteristics of his 2015 album “To Pimp a Butterfly” and reminiscent of the typical unique Kendrick sound, “untitled unmastered” offers a tasteful dose of the irresistible edgy poetic flavor that today’s listeners are hungry for, and only leaves us wanting more.

Move gives “untitled unmastered” 4.5 out of 5 stars

Edited by Katherine Rosso | krosso@themaneater.com

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