Lamar returns with surprise album

NEW YORK: Fresh from his triumph at the Grammys, American rapper Kendrick Lamar has returned with a surprise new album that shows a more spontaneous side to a rapper still thinking big about the world’s ills.

The album released on March 4 — tellingly entitled untitled unmastered. — brings together songs that Lamar has performed in recent months along with studio outtakes in which the rising star both reflects on the discomforts of fame and warns of a society in spiritual crisis.

untitled unmastered. starts where Lamar left off musically with a jazzy pizzicato on a string bass but quickly goes into heavy lyrical territory.

Lamar conjures up imagery from the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Book of Revelation as he cautions against hypocrisy among the religious as well as atheism.

Another trumpet has sounded off and everyone heard it / It’s happening — no more running from world wars / It’s happening — no more discriminating the poor, he raps.

The 28-year-old artiste hails from the gangsta rap capital of Compton in Los Angeles County but, while maintaining street cred, considers himself a Christian.

He brings the themes together later in the album as he tries to get inside the mind of a murderer, speaking of how the American business of mass incarceration can crush faith.

Genocism and capitalism just made me hate, he raps, in a neologism that turns genocide into an ideology.

The rollout of untitled unmastered. could scarcely be more different than that for his last album, To Pimp a Butterfly, which came out almost exactly a year ago after a lengthy buildup and immediately achieved iconic status in the hip-hop world.

Lamar led the Grammys by winning five awards on February 15. He received a near-record 11 nominations and won praise for his spirited, politically tinged performance that teased on the unreleased material.

untitled unmastered. features a series of cameo appearances, most notably by CeeLo Green who adds his mellifluous yet soulful tenor voice.

The eight-track album — true to the title, assigns numbers and dates rather than names to songs — ends with a polished dose of funk.