After several rumors surfaced last week regarding a new project, Kendrick Lamar surprise-released a compilation of previously unreleased material in the early hours of Friday morning. untitled unmastered. consists of eight tracks that were recorded during sessions for his 2015 masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, but were eventually dropped in favor of other songs. Each song name is simply “untitled” followed by the date it was recorded, spanning 2013-2014.
In untitled unmastered. all of the free-form jazz backing and dense lyricism is still present, but without the finely tuned narrative focus that was employed on To Pimp a Butterfly, it plays out like a loose jam session or rehearsal. It has the same inherent feel and inspiration as its predecessor, while at the same time taking on a life of its own by being presented in a new, unhinged context.
The content of the album spans an array of subjects, as the songs are a snapshot of two years in Lamar’s life. The track “untitled 2” features the duality of synth beats paired with sharp saxophone lines, while Kendrick spits about faith and God. Skittering drums and swirling saxophones accompany “untitled 5” as it deals with the treatment of minorities by society.
On standout track “untitled 3” we see him delve into complex storytelling and ponder his relationship with the “white man”, all the while flutes flutter around him and the bass line rides a funk groove.This same track was actually premiered back in 2014 on The Colbert Report, only to disappear seemingly forgotten. Another was performed just a few months ago on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
These widely heralded performances, along with their fellow “untitled” tracks, appeared to be relegated to the scrap heap, never to be publicly available. Fortunately for us, and in large parts thanks to a plea from Lebron James, Kendrick decided to release this collection. Although it is amazing to think about, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kendrick can still strike gold just by compiling the scrapped tracks from his previous album.
untitled unmastered. is not a direct follow up to 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly. It merely serves as a raw glimpse into the making of his important third record. Laid-back and unfettered in nature, it’s just enough to tide our appetites over until the next true full length. It reminds us that Kendrick is an ever-evolving artist, constantly pushing the boundaries of his art, and creates an even more bated feeling of anticipation for his next offering.