Kendrick Lamar Has Found a New Reason for Making Music

Kendrick Lamar. Photo by Chris Buck.

Kendrick Lamar. Photo by Chris Buck.

Kendrick Lamar’s Has Found a New Reason for Making Music

by Daniel Perle


Kendrick Lamar’s surprise album “Untitled Unmastered.” Follows up his Grammy-winning “To Pimp a Butterfly” with yet another installment on Lamar’s ascent from Compton to international superstar.

The title of the album “Untitled Unmastered” alludes to basketball star LeBron James tweeting Kendrick the following:

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All of the tracks are simply named untitled and then which number track they are.  

In “Untitled Unmastered.” Lamar discusses the problems facing the black community in America by referencing the city of his upbringing, Compton, something he has done on both of his previous albums, “Butterfly” and 2012’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city”. Kendrick also continues to incorporate tales of his personal growth, as he describes what it’s like to have seen problems outside of his native Compton, particularly the struggles he saw of black people living in South Africa.

Lamar has gained more distance from his past in the violence-ridden ghetto community of Compton, California and seen other problems in the world and how they relate back to his place of birth. Speaking from a new perspective, and keeping in mind that there are thousands of people who silently struggle through oppression all over the world, Lamar laments the affairs of his adolescent stomping grounds from a distance, as he addresses this in the closing track “Untitled 8,” “I hit the bank today and told them color me bad /Blue faces/Get that new money, and it’s breaking me down honey.” Lamar find that despite the vast success he has experienced, the money he has earned from it can’t buy him happiness, or stop the pain he feels from the continued struggle of the American black community.

Kendrick shows how his personal experience in the rap industry has been formative for him as well, as the outro for 2nd, 7th and 8th tracks on the album echoes “Pimp pimp, hooray!”, referencing how Lamar feels about the music industry “pimping artists”. Lamar also discusses his own tangles with the industry, saying that he has focused on delivering music with a powerful message opposed to just making music that makes people at ‘the club’ dance.  “I made To Pimp a Butterfly ‘fore you told me/To use my vocals to save mankind for you/Say I didn’t try for you, say I didn’t ride for you/I tied for you, I pushed the club to thee side for you.”

“Untitled Unmastered.” also benefits from the numerous artists who collaborated with Lamar and, just as To Pimp a Butterfly, it incorporates outstanding jazz numbers into the tracks as well. Cee Lo Green offers his vocal assistance on the 6th track. Anna Wise, Bilal and Jay Rock help Lamar to make some songs have a dialogic nature. Thundercat, who collaborated with Lamar on Butterfly lends his R&B and Jazz-inspired bass playing to the background of several tracks on “Untitled Unmastered.”