Just as Beyoncé surprised her fans by releasing her self-titled album three years ago, earlier this month Kendrick Lamar treated his fans with a surprise mixtape: untitled unmastered. Although at eight tracks, it’s too short to be considered an album, untitled unmastered sounds like a compilation of songs that should have made it into Lamar’s widely acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly but didn’t. Nonetheless, it is a nice follow-up, as Lamar continues to infuse jazz with hip-hop while delivering forceful critiques of socio-political issues as well as taking an introspective look on his life prior to fame.
Notable examples are tracks “untitled 03” and “untitled 05,” wherein Lamar discusses racial stereotypes while stressing the adverse effects of Corporate America on minorities. Furthermore, Lamar opens up about his personality and the internal struggle of being a Gemini (the zodiac sign known for its split persona). This is a recurring theme in songs like “untitled 02” and “untitled 06,” as he admits that the “duality personalities always conflict [him]” and that he “can’t pick a side, the Gemini.” Hence, the album not only highlights Lamar’s versatility and creativity, but it also suggests that Lamar is currently at the zenith of his musical career.
Despite the many similarities between untitled unmastered and To Pimp a Butterfly, the former is mostly reminiscent of Lamar’s debut studio album Section 80., as it emulates the predominantly mellow-feely vibe which distinguished it from his later works. For instance, songs like “Hol’ Up” from Section 80. and “untitled 06” from untitled unmastered are similar in respect to the jazz-incorporated beats which compliment Lamar’s modulated voice.
untitled unmastered is not only a follow-up album, but is also one which takes its inspiration from earlier projects. That being said, it appears that by releasing his new album, Lamar is hinting at what his next project might sound like. Rest assured, untitled unmastered is a friendly reminder that King Lamar still holds the reins in hip-hop and will not be dethroned any time soon.