This past Thursday, Kendrick Lamar surprised fans by releasing an eight-track project titled untitled unmastered that consists of one song that was recorded this year and seven demo tracks that were made at recording sessions for the album To Pimp a Butterfly. The project shows early traces of what would later become one of the greatest rap albums of all time while also giving the listener a look into the creative process of the Compton-born rapper. From a lyrical standpoint, the themes of TPAB are present with lyrics about police brutality, inequality between race and class, and what Kendrick himself said to be the overall message, leadership. The similarities between the demos and finished album also can be found in the music and instrumentals. What I found to be the most obvious and blatant similarity was the use of a jazz saxophone (“untitled 02” and “untitled 05” compared to TPAB songs such as “u” and “For Free?”) and the use of funk filled synthesizers (“untitled 08” compared to TPAB song “Wesley’s Theory”). Kendrick released the project to show what went into the creation of such an amazing and thorough project as TPAB as well as to unveil details about his creative process as an artist. What might be the most revealing part of untitled unmastered is the date of each project. The seven songs that were created before the release of TPAB range from the dates of May 28, 2013 to August 29, 2014. Kendrick Lamar spent more than a full year of toying around with song ideas and recordings until settling on the 16 songs that are featured on TPAB. This release is an important milestone for Kendrick not because of the quality or sound of the tracks, but because it is the first time that he is sharing his creative process with us. If audiences overlook everything that I wrote above, than there is at least one thing that they should check out: the date next to “untitled 07” says 2014-2016. Could this possibly be a new demo for a new project?
You can check out Kendrick’s performance of what would become “untitled 03” during a 2014 episode of The Colbert Report here.