This is not a review but rather an acknowledgement. untitled unmastered. is a collection of eight songs from Kendrick, created during the formation of his masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly. This isn’t an “album” as much as it is an extension of the aforementioned TPAB. I honestly don’t know what to say, it’s Kendrick, and it’s really good. I’m not saying this to kiss ass or be a part of the herd, it just feels like, at this point, he can do no wrong. Even in the midst of all this young talent in the hip hop world he is on another level. I’d even go as far as to say he is his own brand of hip hop. His jazz heavy approach musically makes him dissimilar from nearly every other relevant peer. Add to that his lyrical prowess; he is intelligent, challenging, philosophical, insightful; the list goes on and on. He doesn’t just tell stories, he places you in them, presenting to you his world, his experiences.
I was talking with a friend about it, how insane is it that even his tracks that didn’t have a set future, that could have easily been boxed and shelved, are still better than most of the hip hop released in the last year. Not only that, some of these tracks aren’t fully formed, nor were they built around each other, and yet the flow is still on point. Yes, they were created with the same vision in mind, to be components of a single album, but how often do b-sides compliment each other so smoothly? It’s rare.
Speaking of rare, I wonder about the future of Kendrick Lamar. He will be a force in the industry for a long time, of that I have no doubt. But it begs the question, can this level of artistry be sustained? The other day I compared what Kendrick is doing in music to what Steph Curry is doing in the NBA. Their good is everyone else’s great, and their great is legendary. Right now they are great. But Steph’s great is different, his great comes from a very physical place. Yes there is a very cerebral part to athletics, but even that is different. What he is doing is based on skill and instinct. He can maintain and improve through repetition, increased strength, and by studying the game. It all comes down to how much time you put into it. That is and isn’t true for art. To be great at anything you have to put time into it, but you can’t practice creative energy, you can’t demand inspiration. If Steph has the exact same season statistically that he is having this year it will be stuff of legend, but Kendrick can’t do that. He has to come up with something entirely new, original thoughts, original phrases, original music; it’s not easy. I mentioned at the beginning of this that TPAB was a masterpiece, and I meant it. The album is one of the best hip hop albums of all time. That is a fact to me. How many artists create TWO masterpieces? True masterpieces. I’m not talking in terms of sales but in terms of impact. Nas created Illmatic, which can be argued as THE greatest hip hop album of all time, and it was on his first outing! He never reached that level again. So what do we expect from Kendrick going forward? Honestly who knows, but I do believe he is a once in a generation talent, and if anyone can continue to push the genre forward it’s him. Obviously there's quite a bit of room for dissection and expansion, but for now I’ll suffice with planting the seed.
I chose "untitled 2" for the single, though it's essentially a three way tie with "untitled 5" and "untitled 6" for my favorite track. "untitled 5" has such a gritty, noir-ish feel, while "untitled 6" counters that with a much lighter feel, and CeeLo's presence will never bring me anything but joy. Honestly, every track is worth listening. Just listen to the whole thing, it's 34 minutes for goodness' sake! You can spare it, I know you can!