Opinion: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘throwaways’ better than most albums

Music blogger, David Bradford, explains why he believes Kendrick Lamar’s recent compilation is up to par with most albums.

Photo obtained via creativecommons.org. No changes made.

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Kendrick Lamar entered 2015 tucked away in his studio, diligently working on a follow-up to his 2012 instant-classic “good kid, m.A.A.d city.”

How could he follow that up?

Well he did, and exceeded it with “To Pimp a Butterfly,” an album that put Kendrick at the forefront of the hip-hop landscape. His clever, personal lyrics combined with production that called back to the old days of jazz and funk while remaining fresh and experimental, led to widespread acclaim; and another album with the instant-classic label.

How could he follow that up?

He hasn’t yet, but just a few days ago, Kendrick released a compilation of songs under the title “Untitled Unmastered” that appear to be TPAB leftovers.

But while leftovers are often cold and nowhere near the same quality as the initial complete dish, Kendrick’s leftovers are still a five-star meal. If these eight untitled tracks are simply throwaways, his throwaways are better than most albums.

The production continues to call upon the classic sound of jazz and funk. They clearly aren’t fully-developed tracks because the experimental edge is lacking, but the quality is not.

This demo-style compilation sounds surprisingly cohesive, and Kendrick continues to captivate with his balance between substance and style. His lyrics do dive into serious topics such as race, fame, and self-appreciation, but he presents them in a very entertaining way by altering his flows and vocal complexion.

“Untitled 2” is an excellent example of the substance/style balance. On the hook, Kendrick’s weary vocals detail the troubling reality that life expectancy is his native Compton, Calif. is short due to harmful external forces and pressures. Despite the depressing tone the song presents, as well as the initial subdued flow, Kendrick’s flow gains momentum and energy as the song progresses.

Features on Kendrick’s albums are always utilized properly. This project isn’t any different. The quirky female voices on “Untitled 3” add plenty of character, while CeeLo Green’s vocals on “Untitled 6” flow smoothly into the song.

While not an album in the traditional sense, “Untitled Unmastered” is spectacular because it’s another opportunity to further explore Kendrick’s creative vision during the TPAB sessions. If songs of this quality are unable to make a Kendrick album, then the rest of the hip-hop community better watch out for what he has in store.

Rating: 9/10

Fave Track(s): Untitled 2, Untitled 3, Untitled 5, Untitled 6, Untitled 7, Untitled 8

Least Fave Track(s): Untitled 4…I guess

Featured image courtesy of NRK P3, obtained via creativecommons.org

The opinion of our writers/bloggers are not a reflection of the opinion of the Tennessee Journalist as a whole.

Edited by Jessica Carr

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Follow me @DavidJBradford1 on Twitter, email me at dbradfo2@vols.utk.edu for any questions.