The 10 Best Kendrick Lamar Verses Ever
There are few active rappers today that have both the lyrical prowess and mainstream success of Compton’s’ Kendrick Lamar. The Grammy award-winning emcee may have declared himself King on wax a few years ago, but such a declaration was hardly necessary; just skimming through his brief yet surprisingly deep catalog demonstrates that he is in a class of his own on the microphone. And we’ve gathered the cream of the crop here – check out the ten best Kendrick Lamar verses ever.
1) “Control” (Big Sean feat. Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica)
Let’s jump right in, shall we? With a blistering verse so prominent and controversial that it’s almost easier to find clips of just K. Dot’s verse than the actual whole song itself, this guest spot on Detroit rapper Big Sean’s song found the West Coast emcee not only flexing his skill, but calling out his contemporaries by name to step up to the plate if they wanted a shot at holding the crown. “Control” also stirred a flurry of response songs by some of those same rappers who were mentioned (and a bunch who weren’t), but it’s a fool’s argument to debate whether anyone even came close to the original.
Before blowing up in a significant way, Kendrick was rapidly ascending the ranks of the Left Coast underground with cuts like the excellent “Rigamortis,” off his first proper album Section.80. Effortlessly weaving his lyrics around the track’s repetitive horn sample, it’s the final verse (in which he lets loose and spits at a rapid-fire pace for a 25-second passage that warrants multiple rewinds.
3) “M.A.A.D. City” (featuring MC Eiht)
The centerpiece of his breakthrough album good kid, M.A.A.D. city, this song notably features the moment where Kendrick seemed to perfect his patented switched-up delivery style to convey different moods, characters, and perspectives all within the same song. This song – really two songs paired together – still remains a staple of his live show.
4) “King Kunta”
Lamar channels his inner James Brown for this funk-heavy stomper, with a voice that clearly demonstrates his growth (and developed acumen) as a professional rapper. While not as rapid-fire as some of his more stunt-worthy performances, “King Kunta” packs a punch both with its delivery and fiery content.
5) “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
Though it might be easy to scoff at the inclusion of what was clearly a song designed to break through radio and make Kendrick Lamar a hit (spoiler: it worked), there’s something notable about creating a Trojan Horse of a song that seems at a quick glance to glorify alcohol with verses that subvert said message in a way that you don’t typically hear in the mainstream.
6) “Untitled 03”
Kendrick first debuted this untitled song on ‘The Colbert Report,’ and later gave it a proper release on Untitled.Unmastered. The song finds Kendrick waxing poetic on the perspective of different races caught up in the modern day hustle, delivering his flow in a musical manner that would define the other songs on the EP.
Kendrick dives deep into the dark corners of depression on To Pimp A Butterfly album cut “U” (which was also featured in his ‘God Is Gangsta’ short film/music video). It’s hard not to feel chills as you listen to the despair and unbridled emotion that blares through his two verses.
8) “Sing About Me”
Not only is “Sing About Me” an impressive demonstration of Kendrick’s writing ability, but it just might be one of the saddest hip hop songs EVER. Kendrick takes on the perspective of two fallen individuals from his past, and addresses their ghosts (and his own) on the third verse.
9) “Never Catch Me” (Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar)
Seamlessly riding atop a chaotic and jazzy Flying Lotus production, Kendrick offers a quick but pointed look at the concept of death and mortality – a fitting theme for the album that the song appeared on, Fly Lo’s You’re Dead!
10) “Cartoons and Cereal” (featuring Gunplay)
Sample clearances prevented this amazing song from making the cut for good kid, M.A.A.D. city, but it still stands as one of the more impressive lyrical displays of a rapper knowingly on the cusp of leveling up in skill and career trajectory. Kendrick’s first verse paints the type of evocative and stunning narrative that would go on to define his entire career.
Get a FREE download of Kendrick Lamar’s latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, on the Trebel downloader for iPhone or Android — and play it offline without a wi-fi connection!