By Rodrigo deSouza
Kendrick Lamar recently released an array of songs that consisted of previously recorded demos while he was recording his most recent album, “To Pimp a Butterfly” which was released in 2015. “Untitled Unmastered,” the eight-track project, explores a style that we had seen in Lamar’s songs before, just not as much.
Along with his fluid beats, powerful voice and meaningful lyrics, Lamar takes a unique twist when he emphasizes genres such as free jazz and funk on his demos.
In addition to the Compton-born rapper in Kendrick Lamar, other personas helped boost versatility on this compilation album. With a multi-faceted board of producers like DJ Khalil and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, who specialize in soul music, the audio takes a twist away from the normal hip hop tune that Lamar portrays in his previous music.
With the powerful beats, Lamar occasionally takes his slangy flow and converses about the futility of hopefulness in the face of adversity. This helps to set a more laid back and deep-talking backdrop on the album, contrary to the aggressive tone in his normal tracks. Even though the belligerent timbre of Lamar doesn’t come out as much as his fans are accustomed to, he still finds the right time to incorporate it in the album.
A subject that the star rapper explores in this project is isolation and the reality of finding yourself and who you are. “Untitled 05” starts uptempo. Filled with jazzy instruments and a catchy beat to back it up, Lamar dives into the music with his vintage agressive style, rapping about isolation and anxiety. He expresses confusion in what he stands for and the difficulty in finding himself when he says, “I used to go to church to see god, but now all I see are hollow tips.” A female voice also steps in to talk about a joy that is felt by someone feeling pain, which emphasizes the idea of isolation even more.
An interesting part about the album is that the song that follows up seems to oppose “Untitled 05.” Featuring the catchy and former singer Cee Lo Green, “Untitled 06” takes on more of an uptempo beat. Both Lamar and Green convey the idea of being proud of who you are and being able to assemble self-confidence aside from the fact that an individual is “different” than someone else. “Different is better, different isn’t bad.”
“Untitled 07,” a song split into three parts, chronologically graphs the arc of an emotional rush. With each part being completely different, the tune gives the listener a story-like feeling. The first part resembles the rise of the rush. Capturing it with an up tempo hip hop beat, the star rapper explains how materials and emotions won’t get you “as high” as the ecstasy he is feeling as a result of putting out one of his finest albums, “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
The second part possesses a bit smoother beat to backdrop Lamar and his fine lyrics. He expresses the feeling of success and being on top of the world, emphasizing his swagger. As the longest song on the album (8:16) comes to an end, the third part of the song leans towards more of a slow tune, reciting the lyrics from “Untitled 04,” conveying how important the truth is.
Overall, the project stresses the fact that Kendrick Lamar is different in what he does. Overdues from another project have still found a way to speak to music critics if they’re willing to listen to the lyrics and observe the symbolism, voice and power in the songs that Lamar has shared with the world.