He may have gotten snubbed just a little bit at the Grammys this year, but there's still no doubt that Kendrick Lamar
is one of the greatest rappers, no, artists in general of our time. His achievements are unparalleled and too many to count, but in honor of him sweeping the rap category at the Grammys this year, we thought we'd give it up to the greatest by counting down his top ten greatest tracks.
10. "Wesley's Theory" - To Pimp A Butterfly
's opening track completely captivated me when the album first dropped, with its bubbling and popping bass line and funk-driven atmosphere. Having Thundercat and George Clinton featured on the album's intro really showcased Kendrick's versatility and refusal to be classified as a one-trick pony. Unsurprisingly, the track is strongly political, and acutely self-aware of what life is like for black men in American society.
9. "Black Boy Fly" - good kid. m.A.A.d city
I don't think there's any other artist out there today that peels back the layers of themselves to show the world who they truly are quite like Kendrick. Every track, every verse is a brutally honest assessment of himself and his world, and "Black Boy Fly" is an insightful piece that puts all of Kendrick's fears and insecurities on the table. This track is a painful reminder how stacked the odds are sometimes, and of the systems of inequality that exist in this country, but the line "watch that black boy fly" sings like a mantra that overcoming the odds is possible.
8. "DUCKWORTH." - DAMN.
I thought it was a bit cheesy when Kendrick released the reversed version of DAMN.
, but if it did anything it did get me listening to the later songs on the album, including "DUCKWORTH." There's an incredible narrative behind the song, which traces how the lives of Kendrick's father and his label boss intersected and eventually brought into fruition the career of the "greatest rapper".
7. "Ignorance Is Bliss" - Overly Dedicated
Considering how wildly successful and popular Kendrick's last three albums have been, it's easy to overlook his earlier work. I can never get over how different he sounds on Overly Dedicated
, and it's not hard to hear similarities between Kendrick and Andre 3000 in terms of flow and voice.
6. "Hol' Up" - Section.80
Of course it's different for everyone, but I feel like "Hol' Up" and Section.80, were the first introductions most people had to Kendrick. It's a change of pace from the normally bombastic Kendrick who carries a chip on his shoulder, and allows him time to exult and indulge in himself and a bit of peacocking and boasting.
5. "Poe Mans Dreams (His Vice)" - Section.80
is probably Kendrick's most standout album, at least in terms of how different it sounds from all the others. "Poe Mans Dreams (His Vice)", like the rest of the album, is awash in fuzzy and dreamy instrumentations that bely the raw message that Kendrick carries in his lyrics.
4. "The Blacker The Berry" - To Pimp A Butterfly
It's easy to call DAMN.
socially and politically aware, but it really has nothing on this track. This is Kendrick at his best and hottest, full of vitriol and venom, taking shots at everyone and anyone, himself included. Dancehall and reggae artist Agent Sasco's hook adds another layer of depth and dimension to the track, and it's arguably the best song on TPAB
3. "DNA." - DAMN.
Most people would probably rank it behind "HUMBLE." but honestly there's a lot more substance to "DNA." Unsurprisingly, it's Kendrick looking inwards at himself, but it's not as self-defeating or critical as some of his other work, and instead is a bit more of an anthem for feeling yourself.
2. "m.A.A.d city" - good kid. m.A.A.d city
As aggressive as Kendrick gets, it's strange to say that he doesn't have a lot of hyphy tracks, but "m.A.A.d city" fixes that. The first half is balls to the walls in your face, before handing it of the dramatic second half and MC Eiht's fire verse.
1. "Backseat Freestyle" - good kid. m.A.A.d city
Call this track overrated if you want, but this is Kendrick at his absolute best. There's no lulls, no boring parts, no verses that don't quite work as well as the others. From start to finish it's a banger; aggressive, culturally-minded, and relentless. While Kendrick's flow is mostly breathless throughout, he displays a lot of finesse through subtle shifts and changes until he leaves you at the end with "Kendrick have a dream" and the undisputed notion that he's one of the greatest.