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Kendrick Lamar & My Insatiable Greed for More Music

As a fan I can't seem to focus on what "untitled unmastered." is because I’m too focused on what it isn’t.

If you give a mouse a cookie it's going to ask for a glass of milk.

If you give a fan an album he or she will ask for three more.

If you give a fan an album of unreleased material he or she is going to ask for a specific song they want released.

Are you kidding?! Instead of listening to a project you didn't know existed three days ago you're already asking for a physical copy? Instead of listening to a project you didn't know existed three days ago you are already asking for another project?! AHHHHH!!!! JUST FUCKING CLOSE TWITTER FOR AN HOUR AND LISTEN TO THE THING YOU HAVE NOW!!!!!! AHHHHH!!!!!

I can’t imagine being an artist. I can’t imagine pouring everything I have into something, or maybe just giving fans a completely unexpected director's cut, only to have them ask for more literally immediately. I can't imagine having millions of fans. I can't imagine each fan feeling like they are owed something. I can't imagine having those that support you also feel like they are owed something. I can't imagine creating your own vision, doing something new and different, and at the same time giving fans exactly what they want. I can't imagine doing that only to have fans not even buy the album. I can’t imagine seeing fans who didn’t buy the album want something else immediately because they want it. I can’t imagine being an artist, especially one as in-demand as Kendrick, but being a greedy, self-centered music fan doesn’t require imagination. I am one.

At the same time I can laugh at those tweets, critique the insatiable ungrateful fandom, I had those exact same thoughts. Even after listening, even after pouring through the liner notes and taking the time to really listen, I still have those feelings and I can't ignore them. The blogger and the music nerd in me appreciated this album for what is, loves what Kendrick did sonically and conceptually and wants to shut my fat mouth. I don't need a barbecue playlist debate in my mentions, but I’ve always said I’m a fan first, now it’s time to own it. As a blogger and a student of music, I find this project an interesting addition to the ever growing saga of To Pimp a Butterfly, a saga I have spent a lot of time trying to understand and uncover, but as a fan, I can't seem to focus on what untitled unmastered. is because I’m too focused on what it isn’t.

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In horror movies it’s often scarier when they don’t show the monster. The writers let your mind wander, let you create your own fear. When they finally show the source of evil, when reality extinguishes the imaginary, it’s different. Not necessarily worse, maybe not better, just different. While we knew the project was incoming, what was on it was a mystery and I let my imagination (and expectations) wander. Would we get the "Front Seat Freestyle?" What about that song from the Beats commercial a few years back? The investigations into TDE’s vault started to saturate my brain. I was playing Top's roles in my head, crafting my Kendrick B-side's collection, the songs I wanted hear. Top’s Darth Maul filtered Instagram bellowed the embers of my whimsical fancies. My imagination was running from the plug thrice.

In one 11 second clip, I went from having no expectations to being beyond excited. Something about the way Kendrick was rhyming gave me white-knuckled excitement. So calm yet so categorically confident. Unfazed, decisive, potent. K. Dot has delivered some amazing music over the past handful of years, pushing hip-hop in the process, so hearing him rap over a minimalist, steady instrumental - no real samples, no Thundercat interludes or haunting howling from Anna Wise - stirred something in me. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard Kendrick just rap to rap. On To Pimp A Butterfly his voice was an instrument, a piece of a puzzle. The music made you feel and the content made you think. I fawned over funk samples, nerded out about session players, and each listen made me appreciate that album even more. To Pimp A Butterfly was different and it was good, so the different became the norm. It ushered in a new Kendrick and a new sound.

In that experience though, in making the new normal, it made me forget about the old; a time when Kendrick wasn’t so different from every other emcee, he was just better. I waited for that moment, and I finally got it on "untitled 7," but it didn't last long enough. I wanted that verse to go on forever, but I would have settled for another minute. There was something about that one verse that drew me in more than anything else on the project, but it didn’t last and lately, instead of untitled I’ve found myself going back to "Rigamortis" (was that really only his third take?!) "Celebrate," "The Recipe" (reminds me of my trip to L.A.), "Fragile" and fawning over his killer second verse on the "Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe (Remix)." 

Am I wrong? Does this make me a bad fan? Am I over thinking it? Yes, yes and yes. It shouldn't be a big deal, this was never meant to be an existential crisis-inducing release of a project. It think it's about finding a balance. We all want what we want exactly when we want it. Beats knock, lines hit, verses induce goosebumps and memories are built. We connect music to times and moments in our lives, but what makes them special is how unique they are to that time, that place, that personor that moment in our life. What makes them so special is that we can never have those moments again. It's not wrong to feel that way about music - passion is best left to the passionate - but no artist can ever give us a time machine. Instead, they can give us a future with music that makes new moments and new memories. I'm not wrong for wanting a Kendrick candy bar over some foie gras, but it doesn't mean I can't appreciate a full-course meal, too. 

Especially in the age of instant gratification we're hungrier than ever, our appetites are insatiable, but the day I'd rather starve than greedily pile more music on my plate, that's the day I'll know I don't care about music anymore. 

Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth. His favorite album is College Dropout but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth. Image via LastFM.



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