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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 22, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Kendrick Lamar’s surprise album stuns

"untitled unmastered"

Kendrick Lamar

The successful album “To Pimp A Butterfly” received widespread critical acclaim for rapper Kendrick Lamar’s ability to combine spoken word, experimental jazz and deep-rooted social criticism, revealing a darker, deeper and tragically beautiful part of Lamar that listeners had only received a glimpse of from the 2012 release of “good kid, m.A.A.d city.” Now, almost exactly a year since the release of “To Pimp A Butterfly,” Lamar’s streak of creative success keeps its momentum with the surprise release of “untitled unmastered.”

Released at midnight March 4, “untitled unmastered” serves as a compilation album, showcasing eight unreleased songs originally intended for “To Pimp A Butterfly.” As the album title suggests, the songs are untitled and unmastered, only receiving a number and a date for a track title. According to Lamar’s Twitter account, the tracks featured are “In Raw Form. Unfinished. Untitled. Unmastered.” However, the overall attention to detail mixed with Lamar’s poetic representation of ideas through his lyrics overshadows this fact and all comes together to create a tight, concise album.

While it may seem as if the album serves as an extension for “To Pimp A Butterfly,” there is an undeniable change of mood in the album’s overall sound. This time around, Lamar’s focus is on the smooth experimental jazz sounds that flow throughout the album. Tracks like “untitled 03 | 05.28.2013” include a lively backdrop of flutes, drums and synths overlapping with Lamar’s powerful comment on the realities of living in the United States as a young African-American man working in the music industry. His lyrics highlight themes of consumerism, race and Lamar’s inner conflicts ever so subtly, creating a humble yet immensely creative piece of conceptual art.

In just one year, Lamar has been able to compact years of depression, materialism, consumerism, racism and personal struggles into two powerful albums. Despite the brevity of “untitled unmastered,” the album stands on its own as Lamar’s deeply intuitive critique of not only society, but of himself. In a time of social justice and reform, Lamar is one of the few artists in the music industry who truly captures the raw emotions and difficulties of living in a system of oppression. The future is bright for Lamar, and the audience can only guess what he will come up with next.