“Head is the answer, head is the future…” – This line, featured in ‘untitled 04’ and ‘untitled 07’, encapsulates Kendrick Lamar’s musical mindset over the past couple years, and this mindset is reiterated throughout the entire EP.
Although there may be an immediate inclination to view this as some sort of innuendo, it should be interpreted as wisdom. The focus of this is undoubtedly philosophical or spiritual — it is Kendrick using his platform to appeal to his listeners to band together and use a collective wisdom to overcome the negatives that he (rightly) associates with society at this present time.
This newest release is pretty much everything you can expect from Kendrick Lamar, with either fast, penetrating raps covered by some crazy production work, or a switch up to a soft croon over a jazzy beat — the switch up between ‘untitled 01’ and ‘untitled 02’ is a prime example of this. As such, you can expect the spiritual undertones that are also symbolic of Kendrick Lamar.
“Rarely do you see rap artists so frequently and so effectively step outside of the comfort zone of heavily synthesised and auto-tuned production. To see Kendrick Lamar do it with such aplomb is a welcome relief”
‘untitled 01’ is a perfect example of this, as it criticises life in modern America, and covers his attempts to act as a saviour for the people that listen to him. One only has to look to his 2016 Grammy performance to understand just how much he uses his gift to try and effect a change in this world, something that everyone can aspire to.
This continues pretty much throughout the whole EP, and on ‘untitled 03’, which works in a similar vein to TPAB’s ‘For Sale’, we get a great introspective piece of work from the perspective of various races which, again, is very politically charged. There is some great saxophone work from a frequent producer of Kendrick’s, Terrace Martin, which really showcases Kendrick’s efforts to set himself apart from the rest of the rap artists that you see lining up on the Billboard 100.
Rarely do you see rap artists so frequently and so effectively step outside of the comfort zone of heavily synthesised and auto-tuned production. To see Kendrick Lamar do it with such aplomb is a welcome relief.
‘untitled 04’ acts as a skit of sorts and again contains pearls of wisdom for the listener, encouraging them to fight the ignorance that plagues this world and leads to the social strife that Kendrick continually speaks of. SZA lays some incredible vocals across the track, with Jay Rock of TDE contributing to further paint the picture.
The next track, ‘untitled 05’, is a further example of the creativity that Kendrick Lamar continues to demonstrate. There is a powerful mix of percussion-on-saxophone-on-piano, with the latter courtesy of Robert Glasper, and some hypnotic vocals from Anna Wise. Kendrick reverts to a powerful delivery, something that we witnessed on TPAB’s ‘The Blacker the Berry’, and ‘05’ is definitely a track that I could see fitting into last year’s album.
“[On ’07’] he is at his lyrical best, which is indicative of how he arguably stands head and shoulders above all other rap artists”
‘untitled 06’ – a track two years in the making – is a particular favourite of mine, and this is definitely down to the bridge and it’s inclusion of Cee-Lo Green and his lush work over the bridge, layering over Kendrick’s raps. The combination of smooth singing layered over raps reminds me a lot of The Life of Pablo’s ‘Ultralight Beam’, and Cee-Lo works so well with Kendrick in the same sense that The Dream works so well with Kanye West.
Special mention must be given to ‘untitled 07’, not least because it was a five year old that produced this. Yes, Swizz Beats’s 5-year old son, Egypt, produced this track which is a three-part piece of work in which Kendrick refers to so many popular themes throughout his music. Part II of this track is the standout part, where he goes up against a bare, solemn beat and allows us to fully take it in. On this track, he is at his lyrical best, which is indicative of how he arguably stands head and shoulders above all other rap artists.
“We are truly lucky to have an artist like Kendrick Lamar who strives to make great music and simultaneously deliver a politically powerful piece of creativity”
The final track, ‘untitled 08’, or unofficially known as ‘Blue Faces’, is a fantastic closer, and a great showcase of this artist’s range. There is the soft, powerful lyrics, the jazzy backing beats, with an intermittent croon. Like many of the tracks on this release, ’08’ has already been performed live – on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in January 2016 – and, also like many of these songs, is a great piece of work that you would hardly recognise as ‘unmastered’.
We are truly lucky to have an artist like Kendrick Lamar who strives to make great music and simultaneously deliver a politically powerful piece of creativity. As such, he deserves his place on rap’s podium.
Shaun is currently listening to ‘Puppets and Strings’ by Kano