This whole musicians-dropping-secret-albums-in-the-middle-of-the-night-under-cover-of-darkness-trend is becoming a real problem for me. On Friday, Kendrick Lamar dropped his brand new album Untitled Unmastered . Not only was the album release a surprise, but it comes on the heels of his 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly, which I'm also still not over. While his new release is pretty small — only 34 minutes long — compared to his last album, it is still something very personal to the rapper, and that can be felt through every song. Especially when it comes to "Untitled 03 | 05.28.2013," which should be the first song you listen to.
I have to start by saying that I think it was very rude of Kendrick Lamar to not realize that the world was just planning to go about life as normal on Friday, a Friday that has interrupted by this insanely incredible album that we must all now memorize all the lyrics to, before he drops another secret album who knows when. But it's worth it, because, while this album is very stripped down and raw, it's a beautiful expression of Lamar as an artist and is poised to be a huge influence in the music industry. Not to mention that the lyrics of each song really speak to me. None more so than "Untitled 03 | 05.28.2013."
There are some very powerful themes that are present on this track. The song gives a strong view of race and culture, and really explores those issues in a very blunt way. Lamar doesn't shy away from discussing culture, and the things that we can give and teach to one another:
(What did the Asian say?)/ A peace of mind/ That's what the Asian said, I need a divine/ Intervention was his religion and now it's a prize/ Him believing in Buddha, me believing in God/ Asked me what am I doing, he said "taking my time"/ Meditation is a must, it don't hurt if you try/ See you thinking too much plus you too full of yourself/ Worried about your career, ever think of your health?
I love that Lamar doesn't mince words or try to sugarcoat anything he's saying, but instead he lets this song be a powerful reminder of all he has learned from others, as well as what others have learned and/or taken from him. This is one of the reasons he is a force to be reckoned with in the music industry right now, and one of the reasons you have to give this song a first listen when you stream or buy the album.
This song is also very important, because, while he uplifts certain cultures for giving and teaching him values, he admonishes others — namely, "The White Man" — for taking pieces of him to profit off of. He makes a very strong and swift point about not only how the music industry works, but also the world — and the ways in which he has been used and propped up as a voice for his generation while also being objectified. He raps:
(What the white man say?)/ A piece of mines/ That's what the white man wanted when I rhyme/ Telling me that he selling me just for $10.99/ If I go platinum from rapping, I do the company fine/ What if I compromise? He said it don't even matter/ Make a million or more, you living better than average/ You losing your core following, gaining it all.
He ends the song with a look at his own race and culture, and it really ties it all in beautifully with what he is trying to say. This song really makes you think about the ways in which we have, as a society, taken from other cultures without thinking of the consequences. He makes a great point that really opened my eyes to the things that are going on behind the scenes that we have no idea about.
If you're like me and not completely sold on the power of the secret album, then you have to give Untitled 03 | 05.28.2013 a listen. An earnest listen, because that is what this album deserves. It's a special piece put out by Lamar, and the fact that it was done overnight without anyone ever being the wiser really speaks to how important it was for him to really push his music and his message out into the world. And what a powerful message it is.