Kendrick Lamar Untitled Unmastered Review: The Ascent Of The Creative Black Man

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How Kendrick Lamar’s Lost Tapes Explore The Process Of A Visionary
Written by: Ziggiy

  ” Somewhere near the center of this cosmos we occupy, the creative black personality lives and maintains itself, moving through time, unlocking mysteries, producing reflections and legend. 

Once, black life and the ceremonies that punctuated it; birth, rites of passage, the praising of natural forces or gods, these and other efforts all found channels of expression in many forms. African man, creator of masks that tell us to this day of joy and rage in his land, also released his spirits into dance and other motion that designed to explore all realities within the human being.”


-Clayton Riley

Kendrick Lamar is a man of many masks. A boy has the right to dream, A man has the right of choice. A thief has the right to honesty, A pastor has the right of Heaven’s voice. Kendrick Lamar, long considered a master storyteller, has worn the mask of each of these men, and many others on his never ending quest to weave thought into the tapestry of mainstream black artistry. The poet, as much a product of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and the Harlem Renaissance as he is the streets of Compton that raised and inspired him, has often cited his desire to write and perform with purpose, responsibility, and an attention to detail that plays across the mind’s eye as short stories and vignettes. These stories have helped propel him to the top of Hip Hop’s pantheon of new class MC’s, heralded as a lyricist who wears the mask of master craftsman. To Pimp A Butterfly was a masterpiece of funk, jazz, Spoken Word, Hip Hop, and blackness. It combined a story so personal with themes so universal to the uniqueness of the black experience that it was able to permeate many generations, viewpoints, and emotions. Ironically, or perhaps by design, some of the most inspired, exciting, and downright genius glimpses of Kendrick’s lyrical acumen were NOT displayed on the album itself, but by performances leading up to and following the release of the album. On several television performances, beginning with a show stopping turn on one of the final episodes of The Colbert Report, Kendrick debuted never before heard verses. Fans clamored for these lost songs, reaching a fever pitch when Kendrick’s emotionally charged and fiery performance at the 58th annual Grammy Awards unleashed a lyrical barrage so potent and powerful that Lebron James himself publicly demanded proper release of these gems from TDE’s vaults. For those of you in the know, the pleas have been answered in the form of Untitled Unmastered, a collection of 8 previously unreleased songs that speak to not only Kendrick’s continued usage of the mask of lyrical visionary, but also that of the Black Creative.

Some of us never did wrong but still went to hell

 Geez Louise I thought you said that I excel


 I made To Pimp a Butterfly ‘fore you told me

To use my vocals to save man-kind for you


Say I didn’t try for you, say I didn’t ride for you


I tithed for you, I pushed the club to the side for you

Who love you like I love you?

Crucifix, tell me you can fix
 

Anytime I need, I’mma start jotting everything in my diary


Never would you lie to me
 Always camaraderie, I can see, 

our days been numbered
 Revelation greatest as we hearing the last trumpet
 

All man, child, woman, life completely went in reverse
 

I guess I’m running in place trying to make it to church

Every Kendrick Lamar project beginning with 2012’s Good Kid m.A.A.d City has incorporated God and Kendrick’s reverence for the most High. Kendrick’s verse is apocalyptic in tone; fierce, paranoid, frustrated with a sense incompletion and forsaken deliverance. The Creative is at once a slave and disciple to THE Creator, and as a compliment to To Pimp A Butterfly’s internal struggle, Kendrick strives for understanding amongst chaos. As a collection of unreleased jewels, there is no unifying concept to this project, but there are consolidating themes. Kendrick, as the Creative, uses music as color and lyrics as pictures. This project’s color is that of Purple and the canvas with which he paints is to use imagination as the eye of his soul. On Untitled 02 he uses color and imagery to speak on his undying love and loyalty to his crew.

Cornrow Kenny, he was born with a vision


All morning with the mixed dashboards triple digits


Parallel park like an alien, can’t visit


Slideshow for the night show, ten bitches


Fine hoes with a blindfold, King Kendrick
(Hello Billy)


So many plays on me I finesse


Palisade views with some sex


I lost a lot of love for missionary


This the first time I confess


Me and Top is like a Kobe and Phil 


A father figure fuck with him, you get killed


Fuck with me and he will kill you himself


TDE the mafia of the west


Move in silence, yeah, we juggin’ like that


Act of violence, yeah, we juggin’ like that


I did a lot of dumb shit in my past


Lord forgive me, hoping I don’t relapse


Dave just bought a new nine eleven


Almost thought I’d seen another plane crash

Q just bought a brand new McLaren


Rock-a-lack about to buy the projects


Moosa got his son dripping in gold


Ali ’bout to let his hair down on hoes


Me, I’m about to let my hair down on hoes


Top billing that’s a million a show


Might blow the whole no whammy on Soul


Might tell Obama be more like Punch


Sounwave caught a Grammy last year


Mack wop, bet he do what he want

It is important to understand that the feeling of this song is to reaffirm the message that Kendrick feels safe with these people. Safety and security are the number one priorities of the King, as he must surround himself with trusted generals, advisors, and consorts as he holds court. Rocks will be cast at the throne, and while Kendrick has in earnest attempted to cultivate unity, this IS Hip Hop and through the lights, cameras, and action; glamour, glitter and gold, Kendrick and TDE know what time it is. The theme of contrasting advice and worldly philosophy manifest themselves in Untitled 03, where the Creative must listen and decipher the advice and temptations that represent the stereotypes of the races of man.

What did the Asian say? A peace of mind


That’s what the Asian said, I need a divine


Intervention was his religion and I was surprised


Him believing in Buddha, me believing in God


Asked me what am I doing, he said “taking my time”


Meditation is a must, it don’t hurt if you try


See you thinking too much plus you too full of yourself


Worried about your career, ever think of your health?


What did the Indian say? A piece of land


That’s what the Indian said, I need to demand


Telling me longevity is in the dirt, buy some property first


Profit a better dollar with generational perks


Equity at his best, really, you should invest


These tangible things expire, don’t you expect


Income with so much outcome and yes


Look at my heritage, we blessed


Now what the black man say? A piece of pussy


That’s what the black man said I needed to push me


To the limit, satisfy my hunger
 Do it all for a woman, hair cut to a wool


We like to live in the jungle, like to play in the peach


What you saying to me?


He said “nigga, come back to reality for a week

“
Pussy is power, cut on a new chick every night


I wouldn’t be prouder, you should allow it


As the Asian speaks on peace of mind and wellness of spirit, the Indian speaks on the importance of land and how to extend one’s generational legacy through its possession and cultivation. The black man then speaks on the need for sexual reproduction and the spread of the black man’s seed as a means of our race’s continued existence. It is important to distinguish and separate these viewpoints from that of the white race’s viewpoint. The three cultures (Asian, Indian, and African-American) provide an aspiration towards productivity, while the white man’s is that of exploitation.

What the white man say? A piece of mines


That’s what the white man wanted when I rhyme


Telling me that he selling me just for $10.99


If I go platinum from rapping, I do the company fine


What if I compromise? He said it don’t even matter


Make a million or more, you living better than average


You losing your core following, gaining it all


Put a price on my talent, I hit the bank and withdraw


Hit the bank and withdraw, hit the bank and withdraw


Put myself in the rocket ship and I shot for the stars


Tell me what you accomplished and what he said to the boy


I’mma make you some promises that you just can’t ignore

The Creative can understand and distinguish the good from the bad, noting that even though he may be of different spiritual or cultural background, that he can indeed draw a little from the well of advice that each culture’s spokesperson presents, except for that of the White man, whom he must ultimately reject, or “hit the bank and withdraw” once it becomes clear that the price of success will come at the cost of his own artistry. Songs 04 and 05 blend together in a jazzy haze that invoke metaphor and analogy, SZA and Kendrick croon that “Head Is The Answer”, which could at once be a symbol for using one’s brain for creative contemplation or simply a sly nod towards oral sex as a temporary salve for momentary stress. 05 is as close to a posse cut as it gets, as Punch and Jay Rock lend their voices to personal anecdotes of damaged psyche, spiritual insecurity, and uncertain destiny dressed in false bravado.

I watch the sun rise then I watch the sun fall


Studied the son of God but still don’t recognize my flaws


I guess I’m lost, the cost of being successful is equal to being neglectful
I pray my experience helps you


As for me I’m tryna sort it out 
Searching for loop holes in my bruised soul


But who knows? 
I just need a little space to breathe


I know perception is key, so I am king

Cee-Lo Green pops up breezily on track 06, lending his soul machine vocals to a song of self acceptance. Here the Creative is speaking to a woman with whom he is enthralled, and in return attempts to explain himself, flaws and all. With poetic ingenuity he flirts with an air of lightness, playfully and romantically shooting her with Cupid’s arrows as he expresses the dualities of his personality and the magnetism of his attraction to her.

My mama told me that I was different the moment I was invented


Estranged baby, no I’m not ashamed
 

I recommend every inch of your lunatic ways


Praise the lord, you teach the kids how to be themself and plenty more


You know the male species can be redundant


I mean we love a woman and think we can satisfy her


Between sheets, covers and pillows


I’m promising your lack of tolerance stuck on a 0


I’m promising that I’m acknowledging you as my hero


Cause you believe in me
 

No you’re not easily impressed
 But I possess qualities that you need to see


Look at my flaws, look at my flaws 


Look at my imperfections and all


Look how you think that my mystique is a round of applause


And yours equally valued


You stick out like an alien compared to those around you

Track 07 is really three songs put together, in true Kendrick Lamar fashion. In the first segment, he revels in the feeling of his creativity, a composer who at this moment truly grasps the importance of the symphony he is constructing. This is Hiiipower in its truest form, a perfect artistic fusion of heart, honor, and respect. No drug, no amount of fame, alcohol, or material possession can compare to that moment in time when the Creative is truly in his element. The second segment is the Creative’s reaffirmation of self. Kendrick isn’t afraid to let loose a warning to those who doubt his lyrical wizardry or dedication to his craft.

You niggas fear me like y’all fear God


You sound frantic, I hear panic in your voice


Just know the mechanics of making your choice and writin’ your bars


Before you poke out your chest, loosen your bra


Before you step out of line and dance with the star


I could never end a career if it never start

Reminders to Jermaine Cole, Drake, Jay Electronica, and Mac Miller. Kendrick’s got love for you all but he wouldn’t hesitate to MURDER you niggas. This isn’t an invitation to battle in the direct sense that Control was, rather it’s a flag planted in the Kingdom that Kendrick has claimed for himself, and it’s name is Compton.

Part 3 is a partially musical, partially conversational creative jam session with Producer Taz Arnold, who went on to have co-production credits on several songs on To Pimp A Butterfly. This serves as a peek into the process of the Creative, as a single guitar strum helps to awaken the germ of a song idea in Kendrick’s mind.

 The album culminates with 08, where the Creative looks at his environment and that of American society through the lens of those who are on the verge of losing hope. These “Blue Faces” as Kendrick calls them are suffering from a myriad of different ills and afflictions, and none of them can be bothered to take the time to step back and view their problems from the perspective of a broader world. Kendrick himself begins to lament these problems until a conversation until an encounter with a man from Cape Town brings him back to his senses.

You never been through shit, you’re crying hysterical


You settle for everything, complain about everything


You say you sold crack, my world amphetamine


Your projects ain’t shit, I live in a hut bitch


I’m living to keep warm, you living to pay rent


I paid my way through, praying to Allah


You played your way through, by living in sci-fi


Bullshitting yourself, you talking to strangers


Same thing goes for the ones you came with


When y’all came on the boat looking for hope


And all you can say is that you’re looking for dope


These days ain’t no compromise


And your pain ain’t mines half the time


A brand new excuse ain’t shit to me


Bitch I made my moves, with shackled feet


Cape Town

The album ends with a spoken interlude of a man opining on the sad state of affairs of a people stuck in a cycle of self pity, and the selfishness that acts as a the counter to self progression. This ending acts as the beginning to Pimp A Butterfly, where we find Kendrick on a journey of self healing, forgiveness, and understanding. Battling his way out of that dark place of inner turmoil and into the light of salvation. Whether or not Kendrick, or by extension any of us as black men and women, truly finds that salvation by way of spirituality or knowledge of self , is an answer that is wholly unique to our paths. What Kendrick has proven with this collection is that, at least with the To Pimp A Butterfly sessions, there is no such thing as a throwaway Kendrick Lamar verse or concept. For in taking this journey he has unlocked the potential within himself to create something immense, something important, something that contributes to modern black art. It is projects like this that showcase such devotion to purpose that make Hip Hop the greatest genre of our time. This compilation, and the songs within it may remain untitled….
But they are surely Masterful!
5/5

Author: FTESWL

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11 thoughts

  1. I have always love Kendrick Lamar and viewed his music differently from other artist. His lyrics have a message, a deep message that I never realized until this review. Great job on the review of this album and Kendrick Lamar!

  2. Much like the album, this review is artistic expression in its own right. Many other reviews simply give their opinion on the lyrical composition, the beat rhythm, and how the artists flows throughout the song. However this review, much like your others, takes us on a journey line by line, bar by bar and paints a vivid picture of exactly what the project represents. It feels as the songs are being recorded you and the artist are sitting side by side in cahoots creating your individual yet cohesive works of art. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey through “Untitled Unmastered” as told by Ziggiy.

  3. Great review. I did interpret track 3 differently in respects to the black mans advice. Hearing it for the first time, I get the impression that his advice is for Kendrick to draw his power from various sexual encounters, with no regard to reproduction. He mentions nothing of spreading the back mans seed or impregnation, simply the act of sex. As if sex could actually recharge and motivate him. This to me, almost seems like Kendrick was disappointed in the advice, like he was low key pointing out the fact that young black men are constantly smothered with this idea that “pussy” is the end all be all. No mention of the black women, or women in general- just “pussy”. Hmm..

  4. Powerful read. I’ll have to check out the album. You get deep into this music Ziggiy. Keep the spirit alive

  5. Yo the way you break down the lyrics is simply amazing, Most just get caught up in a beat but then there are who are really trying to understand what is being said and how it affect even the most average person in today’s world.

  6. Another great read man! As someone who doesn’t really pay much attention to the genre, let alone the lyrics of songs that come in the medium, this provided me ample insight into some of the deep messages behind the songs written by artists like Kendrick Lamar. I might have to go and get this album lol.

  7. Yo Ziggiy I’m starting to love your reviews more than the washed up critics who review music today. From reading this review I have even more love for Kendrick and cannot wait to hear the album

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