Last night, hip-hop fans received a surprise: an unexpectedly released project from Kendrick Lamar called untitled unmastered.
Each of untitled unmastered.'s eight tracks is — as the album's name headlines — untitled, followed by a date. If those dates (most of which fall between 2013 and 2014) are correct, it means they were recorded during the same period as Lamar's masterful To Pimp A Butterfly.
As of this morning, untitled unmastered. was available across many music platforms, including Spotify, iTunes and Tidal.
When this music made its way online last night, some news outlets breathlessly hailed it as the leak of a "surprise new album" featuring "eight new songs."
That's not quite right, though. The project's title suggests a certain fluidity and work-in-progress liminality, and its cover is an unadorned, almost industrial green field. It's a strategy that nods to the lifting-the-veil feel behind Kanye West's The Life of Pablo.
A lot of this material will be familiar to attentive listeners; as NME points out, Lamar has already performed certain passages from this project quite publicly already, including on TV performances on shows like The Colbert Report and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. And the sprawling, eight-minute "untitled 07" is partly a reworking — or rough, improvised version — of material that appears earlier on untitled unmastered.
There were hints that something was in the works earlier this week already, starting with a not-so-mysterious Instagram post on Wednesday from Anthony Tiffith — the CEO of Lamar's label, Top Dawg Entertainment — which Lamar promptly retweeted.
All of the signs in untitled unmastered. point to this release as a snapshot of Lamar's creative process, but given the intensity with which his work is received, and that surprise full-album drops have become almost expected in the marketplace, many fans may interpret this project as a full artistic statement.