Part 1 by Connor
Today, we look back and celebrate the 5th birthday of an album that might not have been. In early 2016, Kendrick Lamar was the pinnacle of the rap game following the release of one of the most critically acclaimed albums of all time, 2015's 'To Pimp a Butterfly.' You might remember Lamar's series of television appearances in which he performed unreleased never before heard songs. Songs so good they caught the attention of music listeners everywhere including Lebron James, who demanded another release via Twitter.
Ten days later on March 4, 2016, Kendrick Lamar responded with untitled unmastered., a compilation of demos that didn't make it onto To Pimp a Butterfly. While untitled unmastered. is admittedly raw in many respects, there is no shortage of good songwriting and thematic lyrical content. I found myself listening to this album more than any previous Kendrick releases, often spinning it on repeat as I played Call of Duty Black Ops 3. In a Team Death Match lobby, waiting for the game to start while listening to untitled 4. Then loading in with Kendrick's verse on untitled 5 hitting as I get my first kill for the round.
"I got 100 on my dash, got 200 in my drum
Name in the grab bags, put my Bible in the trunk"
Running and gunning down hallways, building up scorestreaks. Or the apocalyptic, explosive bars of Kendrick's verse on untitled 1 blasting through my headset as I called in said scorestreaks. It was a vibe, one that I thoroughly enjoyed. An album that could be picked apart and analyzed, or jammed to while playing video games.
The jazz production elements and varying vocal styles presented by Lamar keep things interesting across each track. But despite the variety, there is still a strong sense of cohesiveness, similar to TPB. All in all, it ultimately makes for a great cover to cover listening experience.
On untitled unmastered., the only identifying information alongside the track's names is the dates on which they were written. While this fits the bill for an untitled demo compilation album, it made it difficult to separate the album's songs in my mind. Aside from the obvious single-type songs like untitled 2 and untitled 7, after the first few listens, I found it hard to remember which jam corresponded with which number. As someone who identifies songs with names, I made mental notes that ended up becoming names for the songs in my head.
1) Apocalypse Trumpets
2) On the Line With God
3) People of the World
4) The Answer
5) That Means the World to Me
6) Let Me Explain
8) Blue Faces
Part 2 by Stephen
Beyond the unrivaled song construction Kendrick so commonly displays, what sticks with me most from untitled unmastered. is Kendrick's reminder to us, the listeners, on track 7 that love, drugs, fame, chains, juice etc. won’t get you “high as this”. Quickly shedding what high usually means on a rap song, Kendrick repeats himself throughout as a reminder. He never specifies what will get you “high as this” but by ruling out plenty, he ignites a thought process for us, the listeners, to evaluate our emotions, question the choices we’ve been making(or are making), what we’re looking for and what we can do to elevate ourselves to a place where we seek nothing but our head for the answer.