10 Favorite Kendrick Lamar Songs

Every week or so – as I’m on my continual quest to kill time and not waste it on twitter – I’m going to highlight some of my favorite songs from some of my favorite artists.

Without a doubt at this very moment in time, Kendrick Lamar is my favorite artist in the game. He’s not my favorite ever – he’s not really even close – but right now it’s the exact cup of tea I crave. It took me a long time to get into him actually. I never really liked his sound, I guess that’s an acquired taste, because after one listen through his first independent album, Section.80, I couldn’t stand any of it. A few months later after the constant hype from people who share similar tastes to me, I gave it another listen through, being a bit more patient. Eventually about half the songs I liked, and half I hated. I still didn’t love his sound. Slowly but surely, it grew on me. It started with my obsession with the song “HiiiPoWeR”, which I listened to on repeat for weeks and racks, racking up the iTunes play count to almost unprecedented levels. I would occasionally go through the songs again, and slowly I started falling in love with most every single one of them. Ultimately, it became the first physical CD I had purchased in years, and my love affair has continued to grow.

Selecting just 10 was really hard to do, and I doubt my list will look like any other Kendrick fan’s out there. I really only included songs that are his, not features, except for one I couldn’t leave off.

Enjoy!

Oh, and real quick. Explaining why I love music, and finding the right adjectives to describe things is a futile effort. I’ll do my best, but I’m sure it will all sound so contrived. I didn’t want to explain why I liked these, but felt it was worth giving a shot. I’d be an AWFUL music critique.

1. HiiiPoWeR

The production on this song is absolutely top notch. It’s infectious. It’s soothing. It relates to me for reasons I don’t really know. Kendrick’s flow is impeccable; every drum tap coincides perfectly with the accentuation of his lyrics. The flute-like sample in the background is a goosebump-enduing melody on its own that compliments Kendrick’s charisma and emotion. The song is deep, the wordplay isn’t forced and the metaphors fit seamlessly. From the intro “The sky is fallin, the wind is callin, stand for something or die in the morning.” to the chanting of “Thug Life” at the end, this song is just a masterpiece. One of the very few songs I don’t think I can possibly overplay, and I’ve tried hard. If I wanted to gush over the lyrics verse by verse I would need to use thousands of words. It’s an ode to the good, the bad and the inspiration driven from both.  The music video just adds a whole other great dimension with strong, raw and powerful scenes alluding to the struggles, protests, hate and depressing nature of society.

“HiiiPower is the way we think, the way we live. Its known today that the human race is nothing; no morals, no standards. What we about to do is raise the level of expectations. No, you don’t have to have a lot of money, you don’t have to be rich, but you will be rich in mind and spirit. Some say its big as a crew, some say its big as a gang, HiiiPower, we stand for it as if it’s big as a religion.”

If you have 30 minutes to kill, pull up the video and hit up rapgenius, and just enjoy.

2. Westside, Right On Time (feat. Young Jeezy)

Perhaps I’m being a prisoner of the moment here, because technically this is far from one of his best songs…but when listening to music who cares about technicalities? All that matters is how it makes you feel, and this song is just fun. His delivery once again is perfect. It always seems like his beats are crafted from an A Capella version of his raps; and not vice versa. I’m not huge Young Jeezy fan, but he fits perfectly in the middle of this. Kendrick takes a step back from his ultra-lyrical and conscious rapping for a smooth summer classic, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

3. Ronald Reagan Era

The rumor of a Kendrick Lamar and RZA song surfaced before the song leaked, and while it’s pretty light on RZA, the song did not disappoint. The song is a bittersweet ode to the Ronald Reagan era, an era not too kind on the likes of Kendrick and his family. Kendrick spits a lyrically thought-provoking image of his time growing up up in Compton during the late 80s and early 90s. The song is anthem of sorts. The beat is gritty, the bass bumps and once again Kendrick’s raw abilities shine over it all. The intro of the song is amazing for reasons I can’t articulate; I would listen to an entire song based on that. The verse sets the tone, and the rest is just so raw and borderline depressing, and all the more captivating.

4. Rigamortis 

The fanfare and the trumpets. “This is studio felony”, lyrical homicide. It’s a strong freestyle over a fresh and brisk beat. Kendrick is “breathing with dragons”, spitting fire. It’s bold and full of braggadocious, something he isn’t always quick to show. Kendrick says he has “cracked” all the eggs in your favorite rapper’s basket. He states that he doesn’t outshine his peers, rather he “murders” them. “They dead” he says nonchalantly, almost humorously. The rigamortis (sic) when he figuratively kills your favorite rapper is “gorgeous”. He’s crazy;  his wordplay is unmatched, but don’t ask your favorite rapper, because “he dead”. He spazzes at the end. A change of pace song full of confidence, an ode championing his abilities and talents as a rapper.

5. Cartoon and Cereal

On my iTunes I have the first minute+ skipped. When the song comes on in the middle of a car ride or a pregame session, the intro irks me. But I do love it. Just picture your young self flipping through commercials before finding the Saturday morning cartoons you wanted. The faced paced, high pitched warped intro transitions into Gunplay’s grimy hook. The beat drops, and Kendrick goes in over a hard hitting, yet nebulous beat. It’s such an interesting song with many captivating layers to it. It’s probably not for everyone, but it’s certainly for me.

6. Hol’ Up

The top Youtube comment says “you know you’re a thug if you rap over elevator music”. The second top comment says “this is the greatest elevator music I’ve ever heard”. While the beat is a little more complicated than elevator music, it is quite simple and very ordinary, and Kendrick certainly is able to pull it all off. I personally love the smoothness to the song. It just gets me to sit there tapping my foot and nodding my head. Again, exceptionally flow and the preciseness of which he hits every word on cue in perfect harmony with the beat.

There are lyrics in all of songs that no one would ever get unless they really dug at it. It’s another song where rapgenius is your best friend.

7. Keisha’s Song

This song is dedicated to Kendrick’s little sister, who he’s trying to encourage traveling down a path worthy of the woman she is through narrative tragedy. He tells the story of a young girl who is trying to make it by selling herself. It’s a somber track and his lyricism makes it captivating.

8. Push Thru (Talib Kweli feat. Kendrick Lamar and Curren$y)

Talib is one of my favorite rappers of all time, and Kendrick is one of my favorite rappers in the current. I think there are a lot of parallels between the two. Both are conscious and lyrical, and both have incredibly unique, and often polarizing, voices. The song starts of with Curren$y’s verse, which is as smooth as ever. Talib brought the old school and Kendrick brought the deepness. It’s just a great song, with three great verses, a solid beat and a hook that captivates. Real hip-hop.

9. The Recipe (feat. Dr. Dre)

I used to not really listen to this song much at all. I didn’t really care for Dre’s verse initially, and that’s what turned me off. At work I would be listening to Pandora, and the instrumental came on. I liked it, and it kept playing over and over. I loved it, and I rarely love instrumentals. It’s not the greatest beat ever, it’s not terribly creative or filled with layers, it’s just smooth. The two rappers aren’t terribly similar, but the result is a smooth, chilled-out West Coast vibe that works perfectly. The two styles sync perfectly, and the hook is fun and links it all together. A smooth sample mixed with rattling bass is always welcome to me.

10. I Do This (feat. Jay Rock)

I doubt this is on many other’s top 10 lists, but I love it. I knew Jay Rock long before I knew Kendrick, and while he’s often hit or miss, when he’s on he’s great. I love Kendrick’s style on this. I love the simple beat. I love the simplicity. I love the confidence they ooze. The hook is kind of silly, but they make it work so well. It’s just a fun song, and what more do you ever need?

Honorable mentions: there are about 30 of them…

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One Response to 10 Favorite Kendrick Lamar Songs

  1. C-INSO says:

    Kendrick Lamar is my Fav. rapper of this time too. my top 10 favorite songs are:
    1. Rigamortis
    2. Cartoons & Cereal
    3. R.O.T.C. Intrerlude
    4. Still Hustlin
    5. Friend Of Mine
    6. Backseat Freestyle
    7. Tammy’s Song (Her Evils)
    8. Poetic Justice
    9. Swimming Pools
    10. Hiii Power

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