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Kendrick Lamar drops surprise ‘Untitled Unmastered’ album

Kendrick Lamar performs during the Grammy Awards on

Kendrick Lamar performs during the Grammy Awards on Feb. 15, 2016. Credit: AFP, Getty Images / Robyn Beck

Kendrick Lamar released a surprise album late Thursday night, in part due to a request from NBA star LeBron James.

“Thank @KingJames for this,” Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony Tiffith wrote on Instagram, shortly before “Untitled Unmastered” (Top Dawg/Aftermath) was released to all the major streaming services.

James tweeted at Tiffith after Lamar’s Grammy performance, saying, “you have to release those untitled tracks asap!!!”

And apparently, that’s all it took for Lamar to release a group of eight untitled songs from the recording sessions of his Grammy-winning “To Pimp a Butterfly” album, which were in various stages of completion.

Many of the songs will sound familiar to fans since Lamar used parts of them on various TV appearances, including the Grammys, “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” and the final “Colbert Report.”

“Untitled Unmastered” is a fascinating look at Lamar’s creative process, especially when he’s freestyling on the sprawling “Untitled 07” for his friends.

Some of the songs are unfinished due to sample clearance issues. Others simply didn’t fit the vibe of “To Pimp a Butterfly,” though several did fit the album’s theme of questioning Lamar’s place in the world.

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While the music of “Untitled Unmastered” may not be honed as expertly as it is on “To Pimp a Butterfly,” the lyrics are certainly on point.

On “Untitled 03,” which he debuted on “The Colbert Report,” Lamar asks people of different races about how he should handle his future. He asks a white record exec, “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/Put a price on my talent, I’d hit the bank and withdraw.”

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