Kendrick Lamar’s 20 best songs – ranked!

20. Wesley’s Idea (2015)

A crash course in To Pimp a Butterfly’s expansive sound – Thundercat’s bass ricochets round, George Clinton is available to bolster the P-funk-like refrain – and its lyrical viewpoint. It begins out like the usual bling-dripping, screw-you rapper’s victory lap, however abruptly flips right into a troubled disquisition on materialism as a type of management.

19. Poetic Justice (2012)

Lamar has had a fractious relationship with Drake through the years – there are umpteen articles on-line picking apart their apparent lyrical references to each other – however all was harmonious on the standout collaboration from the LP Good Child, MAAD Metropolis, replete with its unbelievable Janet-Jackson-sampling beat.

18. DNA (2017)

DNA is Lamar in virtuosic type: a firework show of his technical capacity as a rapper, shifting restlessly between viewpoints as he examines black id. He apparently instructed the producer, Mike Will Made It, to make the backing sound “like chaos”; he responded with a patchwork of digital noise and samples from Fox Information – and of Rick James demanding medication.

Watch the video for Cartoon and Cereal.

17. Cartoon and Cereal (2013)

Dropped from Good Child, MAAD Metropolis and subsequently launched as a single, the darkish, Wu-Tang-goes-trap beat of Cartoon and Cereal improbably paired Lamar with the Rick-Ross-affiliated, swastika-tattooed rapper Gunplay. The directness of the latter’s verse is an ideal complement to the unpick-this density of Lamar’s lyrics.

16. Rigamortis (2011)

From Lamar’s debut album, a swaggering early instance of his abilities. Rapping in a double-time move over a twitchy, sped-up jazz pattern, he provides a stream of boasts about his capacity which might be so relentless and creative, even Nas – one of many artists over whom Rigamortis seems to say Lamar’s supremacy – known as him “the longer term”.

15. i (2014)

Apparently Lamar’s favorite monitor from To Pimp a Butterfly, on which he progressively pulls himself out of melancholy right into a state near euphoria, buoyed up by a backing based mostly on the Isley Brothers’ reliably joy-bringing That Girl. “What you gonna do?” he asks after detailing a litany of life’s horrors. “Raise up your head and maintain shifting.”

Lamar at the Grammys in 2018
Lamar on the Grammys in 2018. {Photograph}: Theo Wargo/WireImage

14. Component (2017)

It’s compulsory for rappers to announce that they’re the perfect, however the distinction with Lamar is that he does it in a method that means he may properly have a degree. Therefore Component, a post-fame restatement of the claims made on Rigamortis. Name me out in your monitor in case you disagree, he suggests, however be warned: I’ll destroy you lyrically and, worse, “make it look attractive”.

13. Duckworth (2017)

Lamar in storytelling mode, albeit a narrative based mostly on actual occasions: his father’s 80s encounter with Anthony “High Dawg” Tiffith, then a gangster, however in the end the boss of Lamar’s document label. It’s a advanced, insightful and totally gripping story, revolving round “one resolution that modified each of their lives”.

12. Swimming Swimming pools (Drank) (2012)

An ideal instance of Lamar’s capacity to show a hackneyed fashion on its head. The refrain appears like a nihilistic celebration anthem – “why you babysitting solely two or three pictures?” – his pressing rap includes peer strain, puking and getting overwhelmed up, a cameo from his conscience and an examination of the roots of alcoholism.

11. ADHD (2011)

A relation of Swimming Swimming pools (Drank), this time homing in on medication. Empathic quite than preachy, the verse the place he recounts a dialog with a woman who has taken an excessive amount of of every thing is brilliantly, richly painted, with the spongy-sounding beat – a pattern of Odd Future offshoot The Jet Age of Tomorrow – the right complement.

10. MAAD Metropolis (2012)

With out wishing to gush, Lamar is so good at what he does that something on this High 10 may fairly be at No 1. Living proof: MAAD Metropolis’s intricate, completely dealt with six-minute story of his youth in Compton, which turns into a very totally different monitor halfway by and powers in direction of a nightmarish climax.

Watch the video for Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.

9. Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst (2012)

One other Good Child, MAAD Metropolis track in two elements – rapped from totally different views, with totally different producers dealing with every part – it variously examines the obligations concerned in utilizing actual folks as materials for songs, contemplates the price of legacies and depicts the aftermath of a homicide. It’s dense and sophisticated materials, completed with seeming effortlessness.

8. The Blacker the Berry (2015)

A number of To Pimp a Butterfly offers with pent-up feelings. The Blacker the Berry is the breathtaking second after they explode, the album’s P-funk-y sound warping into one thing darker, the lyrics seething – “You hate me don’t you? You hate my folks” – its rage directed inward and outward, the ultimate verse providing a jaw-dropping twist.

7. Untitled 2 06.23.2014 (2016)

The standout from the interstitial demo assortment Untitled Unmastered, Untitled 2 is of a chunk with, and of the identical customary as, To Pimp a Butterfly – free-blowing sax, a vocal that shifts from a prematurely aged quiver to one thing extra strident, a lyric that dissects hip-hop’s obsession with materialism with out exempting himself from criticism.

Kendrick Lamar in 2014
In 2014. {Photograph}: Polydor

6. Cash Bushes (2012)

Over a dreamy pattern from the indie band Seashore Home, Lamar vividly picks aside the grim motivations behind his ambitions. His verses are unbelievable, the hook by Anna Clever – from one other indie band, Sonnymoon – is attractive and Jay Rock’s cameo is the sound of a person grabbing a chance with each arms.

5. King Kunta (2015)

You can argue that King Kunta’s strains dismissing rappers who use ghostwriters – presumably aimed toward longstanding frenemy Drake – are a bit wealthy coming from somebody who has labored with the ghostwriter-employing Dr Dre, however who cares when the G-funk-inspired beat is so impressed and infectious and Lamar’s rhymes so deftly dealt with?

4. Humble (2017)

Lamar at his most easy. Humble attracted a level of controversy – the strains concerning the want for pure magnificence deemed a bit male-gaze and judgmental in direction of ladies – however the monitor is irresistible: an earworm piano hook, a beat that shunts the track alongside, the lyrics taking one check-me-out shot after one other.

Kendrick Lamar on stage in LA in 2013
On stage in Los Angeles in 2013. {Photograph}: Christopher Polk/Getty Photos

3. Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe (2012)

At one level, Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe was mooted as a collaboration with Girl Gaga. Listening to the completed product, it’s arduous to see how that may have labored, not least as a result of it’s excellent as it’s, the horizontal, stoned-in-the-sunshine music at odds with the fretful lyrics about fame and the state of hip-hop.

2. Backseat Freestyle (2012)

The perfect monitor on Good Child, MAAD Metropolis – its rhymes, in keeping with their creator, bearing the affect of Eminem – Backstreet Freestyle provides a picture of Lamar at 16 and as thorough an indication of his latter-day lyrical abilities as you can want for, his vocal continuously altering its pace and elegance.

Watch the video for Alright.

1. Alright (2015)

As now we have already established, you possibly can fortunately swap the order of this High 10 round as you please, however Alright grabs the highest spot not simply due to its Pharrell-produced high quality, but additionally its influence. There’s a principle that, in an age of social media, music can now not wield the type of epochal energy it as soon as did – there are too many different distractions. You get the place that opinion comes from, however the sight of Black Lives Matter protesters – first in Cleveland, then throughout the US – chanting Alright’s chorus like a Twenty first-century equal of We Shall Overcome is a powerful refutation: era-defining music for an era-defining second.

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