KANYE West’s last album, The Life of Pablo, has been in production for around three years, has been highly anticipated, was released to fanfare and features some massive celebrity names. It sprawls 18 massive tracks and has been hailed by its creator as the album of a lifetime.
And Kendrick Lamar’s outtakes album is so much better than it.
As if releasing the game changing To Pimp A Butterfly wasn’t enough for the Good Kid, he follows up this masterpiece with some outtakes and potential tracks that didn’t quite make the cut. Usually when an artist releases a ‘demos’ album, they’ve been dead for at least a couple of years, and the result is usually poor. However, Untitled Unmastered is Kendrick Lamar’s treat for his fans; his Amnesiac, if you will.
Having already premiered some of these tracks on live television, some of the material on Untitled Unmastered will be somewhat familiar to Kendrick’s dedicated fans. However, even those who haven’t followed Kendrick’s post Butterfly career closely will enjoy the unfinished tracks on this album. One of the best cuts, ‘Untitled 03’, has a repetitive yet ever changing vocal pattern that makes it easy to catch on to. The lyrical themes of race and culture feature in this track, much like in Butterfly, but the track is cut far too short, echoing the fact it is unfinished.
‘Untitled 8’ is another standout track on the album, with some fantastic funk music that would have fit in perfectly on To Pimp A Butterfly was it not for the fact that the song feels more like standout song as opposed to a coherent part of the record. There are also some great musical features that link thematically to Kendrick’s previous work. Seriously, it’s one of the best tracks Kendrick has ever written. ‘Untitled 5’ and ‘Untitled 6’ both feature flowing soul vocals that feel huge, all-encompassing and generally excellent.
The latter features CeeLo on vocals, whose trademark vocals hold the hook to the song. Kendrick’s rhymes feel somewhat reminiscent of Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, with a naivety towards sex and relationships that lands somewhere between his works. Combine that with the muted instrumentation and you have one of the best tracks on the album. ‘Untitled 5’ on the other hand has a much darker tone, with crashing drums, isolated saxophone solos, and a female sung vocal hook that takes a child like rhyme and turns it on its head.
Perhaps the worst track on the album is ‘Untitled 7’, which is still a pretty decent track. It’s clear to see why it wasn’t used on a studio album; the instrumentation feels more like old Kendrick, as opposed to the funk obsessed rapper we’d come to see. While the beat is good, it’s not outstanding. The final half of the song is Kendrick free styling, or rehearsing lines accompanied by a lone bass guitar. It gives a decent insight into his writing process; however it isn’t really something one would want to listen to all the time.
Untitled Unmastered is a really good album, even while just consisting of outtakes. It really is testament to how much of a genius Kendrick really is; that even his leftovers are brilliant. While it’s not the earth shaking work his previous two albums have been, it doesn’t feel like it was meant to be. At this point, Kendrick just seems to be enjoying the ride.
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