Originally published in The Fordham Ram on March 9, 2016.
No one saw Kendrick Lamar’s newest EP, untitled unmastered. coming. Dropping at 11 p.m. on a Thursday was disruptive enough to be memorable, even if the album is just lackluster.
But it is most certainly not lackluster in any sense of the word. untitled unmastered. is a collection of eight untitled tracks, initially performed live and newly recorded in the studio. They remain unnamed on the EP, with all song titles being just the track number and the date it was performed.
One of the more recognizable tracks is “untitled 03”, which he performed on the final episode of “The Colbert Report” in 2014. It features a major To Pimp a Butterfly influence, as do many of the songs on the album, with a funky baseline and continuing the race relations theme of the album. It’s some of K Dot’s smoothest work, and his performance on Colbert was one of the driving forces behind the desire for this album.
The album as a whole wouldn’t have fit on TPAB, not because the tracks are not equal in quality (definitely not that), but because they generally defy the particular sound of the album. Rather than feeling like music cut from TPAB, it feels like a teaser for what the next full Kendrick project will sound like.
Many of the cuts, especially “untitled 02” and “untitled 07,” are a synthesis of TPAB and Kendrick’s breakout album good kid, m.A.A.d. city. They feature the heavy beats and aggressive flow of the latter, but also the clear jazz influences and general themes of TPAB, along with a focus on a more melodic delivery. This project is the next step of Kendrick’s growth as an artist.
Is untitled unmastered. Kendrick’s best work? No, but considering it is a collection of essentially demo tracks, it is incredible in its own right. It was jarring enough to pause my studying for a midterm until 2 a.m. the night before the test. And the guerilla-style release distinguished it from the other similarly disjointed The Life of Pablo.
If you embrace untitled unmastered. for what it is, you will not be disappointed, but enraptured with a glimpse into “secret” tracks. Any new music from Cornrow Kenny is good music. Therefore, untitled unmastered. is good music. It is that simple.