At 1:00 a.m. on March 4, 2016. Many magazines started dropping the articles about Kendrick Lamar, a hip-hop artist from Compton, CA. The topic of their articles was all same; about “surprise” and “sudden” release of his new album, “untitled unmastered”. Well, if those magazines were really surprised about sudden release of Lamar’s new album, it would be very difficult to write their articles after listening to his 34 minutes album within 1 hour of the album’s release. IJS.
The interesting thing is, they weren’t only music magazines such as Billboard and Vibe, but also financial magazines such as Forbes, too. And they’re still talking. I don’t see that the financial magazine writes about hip-hop many times. Inc. magazine wrote Kendrick Lamar “is a savvy businessman” (see http://www.inc.com/dj-skee/what-kendrick-lamar-did-right-and-why-others-should-take-notice.html), but I don’t think they suddenly decided to write about “untitled unmastered” just because Lamar is one of the hottest hip-hop artist=making money=good business, although it’s true that the sudden release by popular musicians can be a new business form for boost sales (that’s only privilege popular musicians can do). The popular financial magazines can easily survive by writing about business and stock market, not music. Probably the magazine considered his new album had a good quality, and should be able to target to their readers. I’m sure they have readers in 20’s, but I think the majority is around 40 and up, like me.
I don’t lie about my age, I will be 43 years old this week. Same age with Mos Def and Nas, two of my favorite hip-hop artists. I used to listen hip-hop a lot before but not much anymore. It’s not because of aging (or I just don’t want to admit about the fact? Oh, well). I still listen to good hip-hop matches with my type, but I feel hip-hop these days are the lack of the following characteristics, not only many artists and songs are the lack of variety. They are,
I’m not saying being ghetto or rapping about girls and sex isn’t intelligent. But I think there are ways to show music and lyrics intellectually and fabulously. I mean, if you want to get somebody you’re interested in your bed, you will get a more effective result with a romantic setting rather than be saying “let’s fuck” straight, in the real world. It’s same. If they want to express about guns and ghetto, there are still ways to express in a beautiful way. Hip-hop is street music, but as there was the word “ghetto fabulous” before, “street” can still be fabulous depending on expressions. And I think that the art of expression and mixing beats makes hip-hop cultural. Some want to include jazzy beat, some want to include classic, some want to have rock on the background. All good, they’re the form of beauty with good hooks. But I’ve been feeling I don’t hear that kind of hip-hop these days much.
Consciousness on hip-hop was much talked about when Kanye West released his first album, “College Dropout” and Talib Kweli dropped his second, “The Beautiful Struggle” in 2004. Those conscious rappers knew how to express their music because they were conscious of themselves, too. Even Kanye didn’t rap well, his “College Dropout” was still one of the greatest hip-hop album in history, although I don’t listen to his recent music anymore.
Kendrick Lamar. Now the world seems to be crazy talking about his release of “untitled unmastered”. Social medias, regular medias, and even financial medias have been talking about the new album in this 4 days. I feel like the world is crazy about his album more than Beyonce’s sudden release of her new song and the announcement of her world tour, both “Formation”, which instantly became a trendy word, around the last Super Bowl. If the reason was the last Grammy Awards he swept away just a month before the new album’s release, probably he wouldn’t also sweep away the center of discussion with full applaud. In fact, he was nothing new to the Grammy. Why is the world excited about his new album, including mid-aged world?
I was one of the people who hooked up with Lamar’s new album immediately. The sound of his new album has full of intelligence, brilliance, fabulousness, consciousness, and culture, which seemed long gone in the recent hip-hop. And I don’t smell business from “untitled unmastered”, no matter if there is a well-thought business strategy behind the sudden release. Mostly occupied by the mixture of dark and doomy jazzy sounds with strong bass, his voice reaches at me directly with his emotion and soul. His rap style is changed like instrumental effects depending on the occasion. Sometimes aggressive, sometimes dark and low, sometimes orthodox straight, sometimes jumping, sometimes rough…If you say they’re what rap supposes to be, name me how many young artists can do this technic right now. But those rap style is what Kendric Lamar has always been doing. What made me (or us) crazy about his new album?
I sensed my answer during listening to his new songs. He was very raw on his new music. Before whether this album was really “unmastered” or not, Kendric Lamar expresses his raw talent and raw emotion on this album. His raw talent and raw emotions catch me quickly and they come straight to my ears and mind. And I feel a sort of revolution from the raw music. A friend in my generation had the same opinion. “Raw” was one of the element what hip-hop made interesting in 90’s and early 2000’s. That is possibly the reason why some mid-aged people feel hot about “untitled unmastered”, a kind of retrospective effect. Bringing us back being passionate about hip-hop and deep search of lyrics once again. At least, it was me.
I assume being “raw” is the reason all songs are untitled. Titles can give us imagination and prejudice before listening. By making the song untitled, the artist can expose all himself without planting listeners one-way perspectives. This allows listeners try to look deeper inside of his lyrics and understand more…in many ways. Some of their understanding might be wrong, but, at least, prevents prejudice without the effort of understanding. Making albums or songs untitled is nothing new (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Untitled). But I think making all songs untitled with only dates is new. Untitled products are also effective if the artists are on turning point or changing, but in this case, I think Lamar wanted to expose himself because he made everything untitled. It’s like giving listeners a blank sheet of paper and saying think about the songs, but that makes listeners more excited and more passionate to talk about, even not young generation.
Lastly, a few of my thoughts. I think the majority of this album was lightly mastered except a portion of #7. Many people say this new album is similar to Lamar’s last album, “To Pimp A Butterfly” but I think the similarity is rather his second, “good kid, m.A.A.d city”, released in 2013. And all blank green album cover is just perfect for the concept.