Recommend if you like: A Tribe Called Quest, J Cole

Expectation: Following the massive critical success of To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar opted to release a collection of unmastered tracks primarily recorded from 2013-2014.

TRACK-BY-TRACK

  • untitled 01 – While obviously rough, the rawness of the track almost works in its favor, matching the fervor and aggression of Kendrick’s delivery. The outro is cool too.
  • untitled 02 – Kendrick plays with his voice to give the track an uneasy vibe, but somehow its incessantly catchy instead. Later in the track, Kendrick shifts into a monotone triplet flow before suddenly jumping into a goofy half-sung voice for the end.
  • untitled 03 – A ridiculously smooth instrumental backing a ridiculously smooth flow. I love the backing vocals, too.
  • untitled 04 – What would probably have been a nice intro had Kendrick used it is instead an interesting little interlude.
  • untitled 05 – Transitioning perfectly from the previous song and launching into a climbing bass line and cymbal-heavy drum beat. More than any other song on this project, I would love to hear this song fully mixed and finished. Its still great here, but the ideas provide such a solid foundation that could have developed into so much more. As a side note, you could easily convince an unaware listener that Kendrick’s verse first and second are different people.
  • untitled 06 – Featuring some very nice vocals from Cee Lo Green and one of the most finished-sounding instrumentals on the album. Kendrick’s last verse is possibly my favorite on the album.
  • untitled 07 – Kendrick seems to use the “Pimp, pimp, hooray!” intro to mark songs that came close to being used for TPaB, as both tracks where it appears could easily fit onto said project, which is a huge testament to the quality of tracks 2 and 7.
  • untitled 08 – An especially funky song that doesn’t really go anywhere, but doesn’t need to.

Overall: I’m mostly writing this review as something to link to in my end-of-the-year list, as countless other reviewers have already dissected the full project note-for-note months ago. However, if you skipped out on this album because its a collection of demos, I can assure you that doing so was a mistake: Kendrick’s rapping is brilliant, and if anything he uses an even greater range of voices here than in his finished songs. The music is a similar blend of funk and jazz to that which filled TPaB, and several tracks contain elements of Kendrick’s untitled 2 performance on the Tonight Show (tracks 2 and 8 to be specific).  So I guess I’m really just writing this to gush over how good Kendrick is. Huh.

Score: 7.5/10

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