Kendrick Lamar surprised fans late Thursday night when he dropped untitled unmastered., an eight-track album full of previously unreleased songs. And it turns out that even some of those involved in the project barely knew it was coming.
Cardo, who has produced for Jay Z, Drake, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, and more, has two placements on the album: “untitled 2 | 06.23.14.” (produced with Yung Exclusive) and the first section of “untitled 07 | 2014-2016,” which is broken into three parts (with Yung Exclusive and Frank Dukes). But he didn’t even find out about the existence of the release — or his part in it — until last week. And it wasn’t until even later that he found out which of his beats made the cut.
The Dallas native has known K. Dot for years — they first met at a show in his hometown around 2010 — but we hadn’t actually heard their musical talents converge until untitled unmastered. (That is, unless you count when Kendrick playfully rapped over “Mesmerized,” a beat from Wiz Khalifa’s Kush & OJ which Cardo coincidentally created six years ago to the day, just hours before the birth of his daughter).
Below, the producer tells us what he had originally named the beats, how he heard he made the album, and what he told Kendrick when he found out.
MTV: You didn’t have any credits on To Pimp A Butterfly. When did you get these joints over to him?
Cardo: No, I wasn’t on To Pimp A Butterfly. Me and Kendrick, we’ve been working with each other since I first met him in like 2010. Kendrick’s always been the bro. I was just feeding him records at the times that he was working on good kid, m.A.A.d city. I was just sending him beats nonstop. I didn’t make that cut. Then he put out To Pimp A Butterfly, and I was sending him beats for that, as well.
MTV: I saw yesterday, before the project dropped, you posted an Instagram with the cover and the caption, “You’ve been warned.” When did you find out this was coming out?
Cardo: I really found out just last week. And I’m like, oh, my god! For real? OK! I was excited as hell because it was out of nowhere. It was a tough week for me, so getting that news, I was definitely excited, and my energy levels were back up and running. I was inspired once again.
MTV: How did you find out?
Cardo: [My manager] Brock [Korsan], because, you know, Brock works real close with Kendrick and [TDE]. He was like, “Just a heads up, we’ve got something in the pot.” I was like, cool, I’m just gonna take it for what it is — keep my fingers crossed, my toes crossed, everything. And lo and behold, I landed on there, and I’m more than grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this with Kendrick — somebody who just won five Grammys. I feel like he’s setting the bar up high; he’s being an innovator, like he always is. And that’s what we need right now: a bunch of innovation.
MTV: Had you heard the finished versions of these before we did, or you heard them with the rest of us?
Cardo: I heard just like you guys.
MTV: And did the beats sounds the same as when you had sent them? Had there been tweaks or co-production?
Cardo: On “untitled 2,” Terrace Martin ended up adding a saxophone and some spooky keys behind it. He’s a bad mother-shut-your-mouth on the saxophone.
MTV: I was wondering that, because it had that Terrace feel.
Cardo: As soon as you hear that sax, you know it’s Terrace! Anything with Kendrick and you hear that saxophone — it’s definitely Terrace Martin. If you send a beat to Kendrick with a saxophone, you might want to take that out, ’cause Terrace Martin is probably gonna want to do it himself. (laughs) He blessed me even more with his addition to the beat.
MTV: What about your part of “untitled 07”?
Cardo: It was all the same. To be honest, that beat wasn’t even finished. That beat was just an idea, and I was like, fuck it, I’m gonna send it and see what happens. And we saw what happened: It ended up being a record.
MTV: How many beats had you sent to him within this batch?
Cardo Probably eight to 10 beats.
MTV: Do you name your beats?
Cardo: I do.
MTV: What were they called before Kendrick got a hold of them?
Cardo: “untitled 07” was called “Oh.” I don’t know why. I just called it “Oh” because it was an idea — like, oh, OK. And “untitled 02” was called “Better Count It.” It could have been [about] whatever. The beat sounded different, it sounded dark, it had light to it. It was just a weird fusion of darkness and lightness fighting each other.
MTV: So when Brock hit you, did you know which ones were going to end up here?
Cardo: No, man. I had nothing. I had no clue about anything. They like to keep everything under the radar. They don’t want too much exposed.
MTV: Was there any communication in between when you found out last week and the release last night?
Cardo: I talked to Kendrick. I just hit him up, thanking him for the opportunity for letting me be a part of the album with him. That’s noted in history now. I’m grateful for it.