Where does an artist like Kendrick go after the monumental "To Pimp A Butterfly"? Well playing it down with a "bonus material" type of record is a smart move, calm the hype and feed hungry fans some material that didn't make it to TPAB, you can't go wrong... well, you could but thankfully these leftovers are interesting, rich with ideas and quality execution (at times) that gives me a greater respect for TPAB. Its grown on me over the year, at first I saw its brilliance but It wasn't clicking, however as the year grew those songs would resurface in my mind. What I realized about the music is how much Kendrick pushed the instrumentals in favor of its Funk, Soul and Jazz influences. Often the Hip Hop ideal dominates over a selection of samples, however with hired musicians he steered the ship to a far more neutral territory, "Untitled Unmastered" further highlights this artistic balance. For a group of outtakes that are simply dated, rather than named, we get an unsurprisingly unfocused experience but those 34 minutes flow by smoothly. For this one we will break it down track by track.
First we have a darker, grittier instrumental reminiscent of the RZA production style from early Wu-Tang records. Low-fi strings and soft piano samples over dingy, grimy beats. Kendrick spits with a lot of energy on this one. Second we move into a moodier atmosphere with spacious beats and deep brooding baselines, Kendrick playing with his softer voice and dropping in infectious rhythmic delivery. Third song we get a fruitier, upbeat, almost tropical track with fantastic instrumentation, a rigid organ sound comes into the track later on which didn't quite charm. Fourth song Kendrick starts off with a harmonized duet, whispering questions the two reply two in voice. Has potential but the song fizzles out.
Track five reminds me so fondly of DJ Shadow's "What Does You Soul Look Like", a hefty warm baseline plodding under a crashing ride cymbal. Six has a faster vibe and is the records most TPAB track, sounding like it could slip itself into the track listing. Seven, the longest at eight minutes, plays with the gangster side, dizzying trap instrumentals and provocative lyrics lead into a couple of half baked ideas that end in Kendrick taking the mick out of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough". Eight has a strong disco dance vibe with a snappy clap in the beat and unusual synth lines grooving around between the deep swooning bass grooves.
Its easy to see why some of these songs didn't make the final cut, they are not quite on the same wavelength, but that's not say they couldn't of become something great, they just don't quite line up with the mood of TPAB. This record is fantastic and an glimpse into the depth of inspiration Kendrick brought to his record. Whatever direction he chooses to go in next there is no doubt he could make another fine record with these musicians at his side.