Kendrick Lamar combined honesty in content, unorthodox rhyme schemes and an uncanny ear for beats to become the biggest hip-hop rookie of 2012.
Hip-Hop heads have known for some time about the young spitter from Compton, California who once went by the name K.Dot. Now with the success with his debut album good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Kendrick has only added to a solid catalog that already includes Section.80 and Overly Dedicated.
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It is far from a simple task to compile a list of Kendrick’s top 10 songs at this point in his career, but here are 10 essentials new fans should familiarize themselves with pronto.
10) m.A.A.d. city (good kid, m.A.A.d. city)
Kendrick takes us back to days of his youth on the title cut to his debut. He rhymes about the experiences with death he’s seen growing up in a m.A.A.d. city, from seeing an acquaintance with their brains blown out at a burger stand to his cousin who was killed in ’94. Kendrick features Compton Veteran MC Eiht on this track, who complements Lamar’s picture of life in Compton perfectly.
9) Keisha’s Song (Section.80)
Kendrick raps about a prostitute who strives so hard to find comfort and a sense of control, but her lifestyle only leads to her own demise. Kendrick’s lyricism enhances the tragic, timeless tale of this track. He had his audience stopping to pay attention to every
word. This was a message he wanted to hit so close to home, that Kendrick says he says he sat his eleven –year-old sister down to listen to his truths on this track.
8) Young and Black (C4)
Kendrick released his C4 mixtape in 2009 still under the name K.dot and added a bonus track by the name of “Young & Black.” The mixtape paid homage to Lil Wayne’s “The Carter III”, and “Young & Black” was a perfect addition to C4. Kendrick took this track as an opportunity to let his audience know the kind of person he is. With a hook featuring a sample of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” and produced by Soundwave, the track is a great foreshadowing of why K.Dot would soon evolve into the Kendrick Lamar we know today.
7) Let Me Be Me (Kendrick Lamar EP)
This track is found on the Kendrick Lamar EP, which was the first time we saw K.Dot become Kendrick Lamar. The song serves as a biography of Kendrick’s life through his own words as he gives a definitive description of who is. He put all the cards on the table on this track directing his words to those that said he wouldn’t make it in this game. He makes it obvious he isn’t rapping for anyone but himself.
6) Rigamortus (Section.80)
Kendrick uses the metaphor of a condition called rigor mortis to refer to his competitors in the rap game. If you don’t know what rigor mortis is, it is a condition that happens at death in which chemical changes in the muscles of the body become stiff through and the body begins to rot. Rigamortus digs deep in the ammunition Kendrick had in his belt as he delves out his lyrics to impact the mainstream rappers he set his sights on.
This track begins with a woman crying and we are launched into a relationship story. He begins with the lines “We hurt people that love us, love people that hurt us” and again hits a soft spot with his relatable lyrics. Although he is rapping about his own experiences, they are still experiences that a lot of his audience has been through. Kendrick puts a spin on a classic “he says, she says” situation in relationships. Kendrick’s lyricism is captivating as he gives you the story from both a male and female perspective. The song ends with Lamont Carey’s poem, “She Says She Loves Me” and gives the song an even more tragic, relatable element.
4) The Recipe (good kid, m.A.A.d. city)
The Recipe was the first single the world heard with Kendrick and Dre on the same track. Scoop Deville produced this perfectly orchestrated West Coast anthem. Kendrick gives a description of the Recipe that attracts the world to California, and side by side with Dre this track is perfectly Cali in all its glory.
3) Hiiipower (Section.80)
Hiiipower was the first single released from Section.80. Kendrick used this track to create a definition of the Hiiipower movement that touched on the lifestyle of self-reflection and finding enlightenment. He says, “Dear Lord, come save me. The devil’s working hard. He probably clockin’ double shifts on all his jobs.” And discusses how his mother asks him to pray for the weak and so he prays for himself.
2) Ignorance Is Bliss (Overly Dedicated)
Ignorance is Bliss is almost a definition of Kendrick as a rapper. Kendrick takes his listeners with him to where he is from and seeing the streets through his eyes. His flows are flawless in this track and his lyricism is spot on. There is no denying the absolute talents that make this song incredible. He touches on the street mindset as he gets into the lifestyle but ends with the title of the song saying, “Ignorance is bliss”. Kendrick gives a message of they know not what they do as it is a lifestyle they were born into and can’t exactly break from.