So I was walking home from seeing Creed across the street at the dollar theater last night. I was about to lay on my bed and watch Youtube before going to sleep. Then, I get a Twitter notification from Kendrick Lamar. I see it’s an iTunes link and I jump out of my bed and immediately download it on Apple Music! I listened to it twice through and then I woke up this morning and listened to it twice through again.
After the Beyonce album, I figured that surprise records were about to be the norm. But this one is truly a surprise because of the rumors that his project with J-Cole is coming out soon. This is not that project, this project is a collection of his untitled tracks that he’s made from 2013-2016. This album has heart and feels raw as most of the tracks are “unmastered” in Kendrick’s eyes. I really like the concept of leaving the tracks untitled with a date. You can see his progressions over the years. It adds to the brilliance of To Pimp a Butterfly because you can fully experience what Lamar wanted/ didn’t want in the album.
Now on to actually talk about the music that he made. Overall, the atmosphere that he creates in this album is chill. The drums feel acoustic and right next to you and the vocals feel raw even with the tone shifts and changes. The saxophone is let loose in this. He uses so many different styles in this as well that it just feels real. It’s looking at all of the songs that helped build To Pimp a Butterfly.
Untitled 1 starts with an older man’s voice being seductive that is eerie and creepy. Kendrick then begins to explain that it is a memory. He then begins to describe bad things that happen to kids. His examples include priests touching kids. Then transitions to go into social justice issues and says he was “valedictorian” and trying to save the world. My favorite line is “running in place trying to make it to church”. He’s showing his world view of trying so hard but never going forward.
Untitled 2 starts with the hip-hip hooray chant that I can only explain as people praising his music. The Kamashi Washington saxophone in this song is great. Lamar changes his voice to almost match a Drake style with long drawn out phrases. He says that he called God and used all his wishes on himself. Lamar uses his religion to be selfish and then he feels the negatives of his decisions. My favorite line is “I can put any rapper on life support, that’s not what I want”. He wants to build the community and realizes that it’s necessary. These themes were present in To Pimp a Butterfly. Lamar then has a piano in the background and it’s awesome as it goes crazy.
Untitled 3 was what started the “we need untitled tracks” chants! He performed it on Stephen Colbert’s old show as one of last performances on that show. It was special as Anna Wise, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat were on stage. It’s about asking different cultures what they value the most in their societies. The Asian man says religion; the Indian man says land; the Black man says women; and then White man is about diamonds and greed. It’s what he perceives each culture to value the most. He also uses it to he’s feels he’s being exploited by the White man.
Untitled 4 is the shortest song on the album/ EP. It’s has a raw, emotional view of the government lying and saying that head is the answer. These are the things being preached to Lamar. Then the synth kicks and in and this songs becomes layered and psychedelic. It’s a very different song and I don’t fully understand it. It feels like a transition track with heart.
Untitled 5 has a different drum pattern to it with the symbol progression. The lyrics flow very well with symbols even though it feels out of place. There are two sides to every argument and Lamar uses his feature to create a divide. It’s almost like a rap battle showing greed versus apathy. The saxophone blurs the lines of which side is right as both have their flaws.
Untitled 6 almost feels like an old jazz song with Kendrick singing over it. The vocals along with his feature just flow so nicely through it. The bass line is strong with little sprinkles of parts of “How Much a Dollar Cost”. The part where he says “look at my flaws” is interesting because he is showing that he’s just human and that everyone else is human.
My favorite track on the record is Untitled 7. Starting out and ending with the pimp, pimp hooray is different. I still don’t understand it. The drug metaphors juxtaposed with “levitate” is really cool. It’s following the psychedelic trend set by the other songs. The bass line is awesome as well. The emotions are so high and then it goes into a valley as Lamar just seems to be having fun at a show with some people. The little boy’s voice is a strong metaphor kids in the area. It’s a great song.
Untitled 8 is straight out of the 90’s. Its strong bass line is fun to follow and the song creates an upbeat tone. It almost feels like a Bruno Mars song with actual lyrics. It’s the end of the project and it feels like it actually is the conclusion of the album although these weren’t designed to be like that. The final line of “pimp, pimp. Hooray” marks the end of this thoughtful, inspiring project.
Conclusion, thank you Kendrick Lamar for being real and making this record. From the religious undertones into present day rap is truly different. Your music is inspiring and creative. It’s what rap has needed. I still need to listen to this a few more times as there’s so much that needs to be experienced.