Untitled Unmastered: An unhinged look into the life of Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s “untitled unmastered” is easily one of the best collections of cut songs I’ve heard in a long time. While it doesn’t have as much to chew on as his previous album, it’s still a great glance into the making of his previous “To Pimp a Butterfly.”

A collection of b-sides from the production of his previously released album “To Pimp a Butterfly,” “untitled unmastered” eschews song titles in favor of dates, likely the dates on which the songs were recorded, already giving off the impression that the songs here were unfinished, or have a reason for being cut.

Throughout the project, there is clearly an unfinished feel to the album, which is only fitting. The layered, jazz-influenced instrumentals that were on “To Pimp a Butterfly” are back on this project, although much less grand-feeling than his previous album, allowing it to have its own, if similar, sound.

The unfinished nature of this album is really only highlighted when comparing it to Lamar’s past commercial works such as “good kid m.A.A.d city” or the previously mentioned “To Pimp a Butterfly,” both of which were ambitious concept albums telling a greater story between songs.

There isn’t really as much of a main concept here, but little skits on the beginnings and endings of songs give them even more personality. If you enjoyed the concept of “To Pimp a Butterfly” the skits here are similar in tone and theme, offering a glimpse into the making of that album, which really made this album more enjoyable than it has any right to be.

As much as I love “To Pimp a Butterfly’s” masterful lyricism and jazzy, complex instrumentals to tell a riveting story, it can be a little bit overwhelming. I usually have to be in a particular state of mind to listen to it. But “untitled unmastered” is much easier to digest. I find it to be pretty good no matter the occasion, whether it be listening intently with the album in mind, or even as background music.

That being said, I definitely do ultimately prefer his grander concept albums when I do listen intently, since there’s a lot more to chew on. “Untitled unmastered” is closer in ethos to “good kid, m.A.A.d city” than “To Pimp a Butterfly” in that regard, settling somewhere in between the former’s modernization of West Coast hip-hop and the latter’s heritage in jazz and funk.

My favorite song on this album is probably “untitled 03,” with Kendrick using call-and-response to great effect, creating a believable conversation, delving into Lamar’s aspirations and roadblocks in the way of those aspirations.

Overall, “untitled unmastered” is a collection of some of the best b-sides in a while. Not only are all the songs here good in their own right, but they also become even better when keeping “To Pimp a Butterfly” in mind. It’s also a glimpse into the making of a great album as well, to see how many of many of “To Pimp a Butterfly’s” main concepts, such as fame and race, come together. For a bunch of leftover songs, this is definitely an impressive offering.

“Pimp, pimp hooray!” Kendrick cries at the beginning of songs “Untitled 02” and “Untitled 07.” I feel the same way about this album, too.