Kendrick Lamar Channels ‘The Celestine Prophecy’ on ‘untitled unmastered.’
All true kings are fit for a crown, but the one that adorns the head of Kendrick Lamar is fashioned with thorns rather than precious metals and gemstones. Odds are that he wouldn't have it any other way.
As the great Ernest Hemingway once famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed," and if there's anyone in the rap game who gives of himself by allowing his thoughts to bleed onto the page, it's King Kunta. After gathering all the evidence, which includes two or three classic albums (depending on who you ask), consecutive platinum plaques, Grammys galore, and his recently liberated surprise project, untitled unmastered., it's clear that Kendrick Lamar is hip-hop's current supreme soloist and resident laureate. This should account for untitled unmastered. conjuring up memories of one of the more highly regarded artistic creations of the past quarter-century.
Renowned author James Redfield's 1993 novel, The Celestine Prophecy, is a first-person narrative of a man who stumbles upon the legend of The Manuscript, an ancient text dating back to 600 B.C. that consists of nine spiritual insights serving as a guide to self-discovery and spiritual awakening. The Manuscript is being suppressed by members of the Peruvian government and the Catholic Church, all of whom are opposed to the dissemination of the book in fear that it will create a divide in the traditional hierarchy of the church and consider it an abomination to Christianity. Intrigued by the power of The Manuscript and in a transitional period in life himself, the narrator heads on an adventure during which he comes across a doctrine of psychological and spiritual ideals that help bring enlightenment and spiritual freedom into one's life.
That journey is similar to the one Kendrick takes on untitled unmastered, which finds him conveying many of the messages gleaned from the acclaimed New York Times bestseller. Untitled unmastered. comes nearly a year after his masterpiece, To Pimp a Butterfly, debuted. The opus did what many long players have set out to achieve and that's surpass its predecessor, good kid, m.A.A.d city, which it most certainly did. Kendrick earned his second platinum plaque and 11 Grammy nominations, not to mention the distinction of being regarded as the current torchbearer for hip-hop by fans, critics and peers alike.
Riding high off of his success, the TDE franchise player and his team decided to express their appreciation for the public's continued support by gifting listeners with untitled unmastered. The project consists of studio versions of the untitled songs Kendrick performed on The Colbert Report, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and the most recent performance at 2016 Grammy Awards. Released after a mere few hours notice, untitled unmastered. includes a tracklist featuring songs without titles -- only a track number appears with the date on which each individual song was recorded. As a result, the project was met with an air of intrigue and excitement.
Untitled unmastered. opens with a short skit featuring an unidentified man getting "serviced" by a young tender. Kendrick bursts out the gate on "untitled 01 l 08.19.2014." with a tune that paints a picture of the rapture occurring in real time, rhyming, "We all nervous and crying, moving in caution/In disbeliefs our beliefs the reason for all this."
He describes the current state of affairs in the world, from mass destruction to immorality in the church before pleading his case to God in an attempt to be given forgiveness and spared from the hell happening on earth. A reconsideration of the inherent mysteries and coincidences on earth is key to mastering The First Insight found in The Celestine Prophecy and bars like, "I seen it vividly jogging my brain memory/Life no longer infinity this was the final calling," and K. Dot's claim that the "Evidence all around us the town is covered in fishes," makes it clear by the end of the verse that his third-eye has been opened. Referencing the tale of the Seven Trumpets from The Book of Revelation in the Bible, Cornrow Kenny runs roughshod over the ghastly Hit-Boy and DJ Spinz co-produced track.
The lead-off cut is an intense opener, but Kendrick eases up on the project's second selection, "untitled 02 I 06.23.2014.," which is when it truly gets on a roll. Employing a delivery and flow that's eerily similar to Drake, Kendrick seemingly mocks his Canadian counterpart and all that he stands for as an artist, declaring "you was never the homie." Untitled unmastered.'s highlight moment comes on its fifth track, "untitled 05 I 09.21.2014.," with K. Dot taking on the role of a merchant of death before handing the mic to TDE label mates Punch and Jay Rock. They join him in lamenting the seesaws of life over a jazzy soundbed provided by Nard&B. CeeLo Green also makes an appearance on untitled unmastered., popping up to lend his soulful voice to a cut on which Kendrick embraces the duality of his Gemini ways and peculiar personality.
Known to denounce destructive vices on many of his songs, the good kid from Compton levitates on the project's epic seventh selection. Running over eight minutes long, "untitled 07 I 2014 - 2016" begins with Kendrick railing against the temporary trappings of life before transitioning to a beat produced by Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys' 5-year-old son, Egypt Dean. After aiming a few subliminal warning shots at Jay Electronica, who was attempting to spar with the Left Coast's savior over the past year, the track ends with an intermission of K. Dot practicing a soulful routine amid measured riffs from an acoustic guitar. The DJ Khalil-produced "untitled 08 I 9.06.2014." (also known as "Blue Faces") serves as one of the more upbeat and enticing offerings on the album.
An observation of the false sense of desperation among under-privileged Americans, the song finds Kendrick delivering the third verse from the vantage point of a foreigner and how the world views their need for instant-gratification and lack of perspective. Lyrics like "You’re banking on good luck, you wishing for miracles/You never been through shit, you’re crying hysterical/You settle for everything, complain about everything/You say you sold crack, my world amphetamine," are sure to prod at the soul of any listener fretting over staying on trend or lacking the latest gadget.
The concept of an album full of B-Side material is far from new in hip-hop, but the most apt comparison to untitled unmastered. would be Nas' Lost Tapes album that arrived on the heels of his Stillmatic album and featured material recording during the making of his botched double-album, I Am... But untitled unmastered. wasn't released under the guise of being a make-up album for a lesser effort (Nastradamus) like Lost Tapes was and is more of a victory lap than a keepsake.
Kendrick's random encounters on "untitled 03" and "untitled 08" highlight how synchronicity, a concept that revolves around "meaningful coincidences" and is heavily discussed in The Celestine Prophecy, can alter the path one's life and their perception of it. Redfield's novel also suggests that it's possible to replenish your spiritual energy by mastering The Fifth Insight and connecting to a higher source to attain it, much like Kendrick laments on "untitled 07 I 2014 - 2016." But The Ninth Insight of The Celestine Prophecy, which teaches that letting go of our worries and increasing our perception of the beauty of life will unlock your personal heaven on earth, is the crux of Kendrick's message on untitled unmastered. and in his music overall.
Seeking peace of mind and understanding while speaking to the human condition, Kendrick drops poignant gems on the idiosyncrasies of life, as well as his own, over the rich production provided by his trusty platoon of boardsmen on untitled unmastered. Th e project may not be a tour-de-force, but it's easily the best rap album of the year thus far and should hold listeners over until Kendrick's next reach for hip-hop immortality.
Twitter Reacts to Kendrick Lamar's Surprise Project untitled unmastered.