Hip hop and the music world in general bows down to the one and only Kendrick Lamar for releasing his surprise project, Untitled Unmastered, today. The titles of the LP’s eight songs reference the dates Kendrick worked on this previously unreleased music, and while the album draws its individual tracks from various recording sessions spanning the past three years, it flows seamlessly from beginning to end.

kendrick lamar
Photo by Christian San Jose

Untitled Unmastered starts off with an intimate, sexy opening that flows into a perfect start to this mysterious album, “Untitled 02|06.23.2014.” The track displays a side of Kendrick that we haven’t seen before but always knew was there. It has an old Kanye feel, and Kendrick simply kills it with the smooth rhymes and sick flow.

With its cool jazz and unique vocals, the album as a whole has a much more relaxed feel than other Kendrick Lamar releases. “Untitled 05|09.21.2014” takes its time to kick off, opening with some jazzy percussion and horns before a woman begins singing “…And that means the world to me.” When Kendrick’s launches into his dope verses, the background instrumentals remain chaotic and busy, giving the song an innovative sound.

The next track, “Untitled 06|06.30.2014,” evokes family barbecues. The trumpets and layered vocals give it a comfortable, easy groove. It’s the track you can chill out to while singing along with guest vocalist CeeLo.

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The most pleasant surprise on this surprise album is “Untitled 07|2014-2016,” a track produced by Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys’ five-year-old son Egypt. They were jamming out in the studio, taking their time with this eight-minute song featuring dope beats only a prodigy could create. Kendrick fades out the song with his message that “head is the answer” (the lyrics to this one definitely aren’t as all-ages as the recording process was).

Lamar wraps up the album with the funky “Untitled 08|09.06.2014,” a song about the struggle of life and battling bad days with “blue faces.” The upbeat track features dope synths with layered background vocals and a danceable beat you will be bumping in your car.

Untitled Unmastered highlights a simpler side of Kendrick, but thematically the album is still political and issue-driven. Although he incorportates jazz, soul, and funk into his music, Lamar’s sound could only be produced by the West Coast. Listen to the album now on iTunes and Spotify.

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