You think Kendrick Lamar is the G.O.A.T.? ...K.

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Written by Erik Lindquist

I’m convinced that Kendrick Lamar is the greatest rapper of all time.

This belief is a recent development of mine. I’ve always considered hip-hop/rap to be my favorite genre of music; I enjoy the wordplay, clever cultural references, and grooving to the beats. While I had a respect for Kendrick’s music, it was never my first choice. His harsh and almost jarring voice paired with his ostensibly repetitive beats spurred me to go elsewhere. However, his latest studio album, DAMN., transformed my perception of rap and opened the door to my appreciation of Lamar’s previous work.

Like Lamar himself, in my opinion, DAMN. is an acquired taste. Initially, I was admittedly underwhelmed. There were no real standout songs to me. It lacked both the perfectly polished production of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and the cultural significance that the jazzy To Pimp a Butterfly contained (I say this in retrospect, though, because it wasn’t until Lamar’s most recent project that I valued his earlier releases). However, after a few more listens, the Compton-native’s DAMN. became inexplicably captivating. It is undoubtedly the most played album in my music library; I listen to it while I exercise, drive, study, hang out, and even sleep.       

There are countless reviews online that delve into why the project was so well-received. For me, it’s because of the emotions each song evokes, its continuity (listen through, DON’T SHUFFLE!), and its replayability. While my addiction to this particular album has started to wane, my appreciation for Lamar’s art has only grown. He doesn’t rely on club-banging beats, but rather his masterfully-crafted lyrics. No song sounds the same. It feels as though I catch a new allusion, double-entendre, or punch line after every listen. Kendrick Lamar’s versatility is what sets him apart from the rest.

One talent of his that should be touched on is his emphasis on vocal tone. Lamar manipulates his voice to convey differing moods, characters, and states of mind. He has a distinct voice he uses to depict his subconscious, an authority figure, his rage, his disillusionment with the system, and even a voice when he’s delivering sexually charged lyrics. Once you distinguish between them, since the voices often pop up across different albums and songs of his, it adds a whole new level of depth to his lyricism.

His storytelling is also worth addressing. The 14th and last track on DAMN., titled “DUCKWORTH.”, is my favorite song on the album. It’s an outlier on the album because it’s an intelligible story rather than an expression of an idea or emotion. “DUCKWORTH.”, Kendrick’s last name, is a true, awe-inspiring event that took place when Kendrick was a child. It involves a Kentucky Fried Chicken stickup, Kendrick’s father, and a mind-boggling coincidence. The story is as profound as it is coherent. What’s even more incredible is the fact that he waited until his fourth studio album to tell it.

Over the course of his career, Lamar has referred to himself as K Montana, K-Dot (see title for mediocre wordplay), Cornrow Kenny, Kung-Fu Kenny, and of course Kendrick Lamar. Nicknames are usually assigned to, not chosen, by the recipient; this is another example of Kendrick breaking the mold. After four consecutive hits, Kung-Fu Kenny has karate-chopped his way to my top-contender for G.R.O.A.T. ‒ Greatest Rapper of All Time.

This post hardly talked about Lamar’s other sensational releases, but I’m confident that every album of his up to this point will be deemed a classic.