Last year, Kendrick Lamar released the momentous To Pimp A Butterfly, which has since become one of the most significant pieces of racial artistic expression ever released. With untitled unmastered, Lamar compiles loose ends collected over his previous album’s recording sessions.
The compilation album’s eight tracks are equally as jazz- and funk-laden as his previous project. From a subject matter standpoint, the Compton native takes a chance to comment on the Black experience in America, the evils surrounding his hometown, and grappling with rising success.
“Untitled 01” opens with a deep male voice speaking sultrily to a women, eventually fading into Lamar rapping frantically about religion. He parses over the evils of life and the church before he eventually shifts into a conversation with God. His verse begins with “I seen it vividly jogging my brain memory” and closes with “All man, child, woman, life completely went in reverse/I guess I’m running in place trying to make it to church.”
The song is a reimagining of the Bible’s Book of Revelation, and depicts Kendrick’s judgment day as he tries to return to religion after ignoring it. This kind of deeply cerebral songwriting is what separates Lamar from other mainstream artists in today’s music industry, and he works to separate himself further on the remaining tracks.
“Untitled 02” is another highlight where he speaks on the success of his entire group of friends and labelmates.
Lamar takes a poignant view on various cultures on the third track. He runs over metaphorical lessons taught by men of different races, combining to represent America’s issues as a whole.
The Asian man teaches him to meditate and think to take care of his health instead of money and fame. The Native man teaches him the value of land and to set his roots. The Black man speaks of sexuality and how he should value love and women more. Finally, the White man represents corporate exploitation and how much money can be made from his art.
“Untitled 05” is perhaps the most well-rounded track on the project, providing a deep look inside the self-destruction of Black culture. It features Lamar trading verses with Jay Rock and Punch, labelmates and friends of his. The song touches on a reckless lifestyle that leads many Black men in America into the prison-industrial complex.
“Genocism and capitalism just made me hate/Correctionals and these private prisons gave me a date/Professional dream killers reason why I’m awake/I’m sleep walkin’, I’m street stalkin’, I’m outta place.”
With untitled unmastered, Lamar proves that even when it’s only a peek into his creative process, his genius still shines through.
The best way to look at this project is it being representative of its ‘title’ in many ways. First of all, it’s untitled simply because it doesn’t need to be, as the songs speak for themselves. Secondly, Lamar proves that along with technical mixing of the songs, he too is unmastered, completely free to express in his element.