‘Pimp Pimp… Hooray!’
Almost a year since Kendrick Lamar released his critically acclaimed concept album To Pimp a Butterfly, and now some of the tracks that didn’t make it onto the initial sixteen track release are finally surfacing. First released on Spotify in early March and then shortly afterwards on iTunes, untitled unmastered. gets its physical release on CD on the 11th March. The album is a collection of demos that were recorded between 2013 and 2014, mainly comprised of material that was originally intended to appear on To Pimp a Butterfly but didn’t quite make the cut for one reason or another. Kendrick has cited sample clearance or incompletion at time of release as reasons for these tracks being held back. Whatever the reason, a year later fans of Lamar’s magnum opus are now being treated to another eight tracks in a similar vein to those on his 2015 album.
Not that To Pimp a Butterfly could be easily categorised into any particular genre, as it flits from hip-hop and funk to free jazz and avant-garde experimentation, with Lamar assuming a variety of vocal characteristics and styles throughout. untitled unmastered. is no different, as its first track ‘untitled 01 | 08.19.2014.’ moves from an ominous Barry White style vocal intro to a sample-based production by Ritz Reynolds, reminiscent of one of Rza’s creations from early Wu-Tang albums.
The compilation features a familiar list of collaborators and producers, with Thundercat playing bass on six of the eight tracks, and Bilal lending his vocals on ‘untitled 03 | 05.28.2013.’. Robert Glasper adds his characteristic laid back piano to ‘untitled 05 | 09.21.2014’, one of the album’s most heavily jazz-inflected and most enjoyable compositions, while Cee-Lo Green adds his trademark falsetto to ‘untitled 06 | 06.30.2014.’, a sure-footed bossanova with an undeniably catchy chorus produced by Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
The albums’s most lengthy track arrives in the form of an eight minute epic, that moves from a wonky atonal trap beat to a downbeat and melodic interlude as Kendrick reflects on the main themes of To Pimp a Butterly before segueing into a lo-fi room recording of Lamar and Thundercat jamming together. The album’s closing track is a solid funk tune co-written by Kendrick, Thundercat and Brainfeeder label mate Mono/Poly, reminding us of just how prolific Lamar’s output is when he has single-quality tracks like this sitting on the shelf, almost left behind as unreleased relics. Thankfully, these eight got to see the light of day.