Exclaim!'s Top 15 Hip-Hop Albums Best of 2016



 
6. Kendrick Lamar
untitled unmastered.
(TDE/Aftermath/Universal)

Ostensibly a clearinghouse for unreleased material from 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly, untitled unmastered. was dropped without much advance fanfare in early March; upon its release, Kendrick Lamar described the brief eight-song album as "Demos from to Pimp a Butterfly. In Raw Form. Unfinished. Untitled. Unmastered." Of course, when an artist is riding a creative wave of the type that Kendrick has been riding for the past half-decade, every scrap of new music is worth hearing — and untitled unmastered. is no average set of leftovers.
 
If it doesn't quite startle like To Pimp a Butterfly, the impact of the Compton rapper's dense, dizzying rhymes, which alternate between introspection and socio-ethno-cultural critiques of American hierarchy as well as the ongoing and systemic oppression of minorities, is in no way lessened by the familiarity with musical backdrops that mix jazz instrumentation, unsettling synths and elastic West Coast funk. At its best (the apocalyptic "untitled 01," the breezy Cee-Lo Green duet of "untitled 06," the middle section of the sprawling "untitled 07," the funky "untitled 08"), untitled unmastered. is as good as anything titled and mastered that Kendrick's released to date.
Thierry Côté