Kendrick Lamar’s recently-released set of demo cuts, Untitled Unmastered, has reached number one on the Billboard charts. The album was put out as a surprise on March 4 after the head of Lamar’s label, Top Dawg Entertainment, had publicly alluded to new material from one of his artists in 2016.
Untitled Unmastered is the Compton rapper’s second album to top the charts in the past 12 months, following last year’s To Pimp A Butterfly. The album has sold nearly 180,000 equivalent albums (which includes calculated “sales” from streaming royalties) since its release, according to Billboard.
It’s been a big year for repeat chart toppers. Lamar is actually the third musician since January to hit number one twice in 12 months. Drake hit the top of Billboard’s list twice with If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and his Future collaboration What A Time To Be Alive. And, surprising as it may be, Future has topped the charts the most times in the past year, hitting number one three times between August of 2015 and February of this year, with the Drake collaboration and the albums DS2 and Evol.
The tremendous success surrounding Lamar’s latest release can be attributed to extremely well-coordinated efforts on the part of him and his label. The album dropped on Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal at 12:01 am on March 4, and was followed by physical units on March 11. And unlike many modern hip-hop releases — especially the release nightmare that has been Kanye West’s latest album — Untitled Unmastered was available for free streaming, as well as for purchase, instantly.
It also doesn’t hurt that the music is great; the album, much like To Pimp A Butterfly, has been almost universally praised by music critics worldwide. A collection which was self-explained by Lamar to be “demos from To Pimp a Butterfly. In raw form,” Untitled Unmastered offers fans an interesting glimpse into what the rapper’s songs sound like in less-polished form.