Before you read through my top 10 Kendrick songs I recommend that you go and read my 20-11. Kendrick has undoubtedly paved the way for himself to become a rap legend and within these amazing albums of his are some truly amazing tracks. As ever, this list will only include studio albums and not the recently released Unmastered Untitled because it has been out long enough to judge against those in this list. So to kick us off at number 10:
This is the song that kicked off the TDE movement, it is the start of the whole Black Hippy crews raise to rap stardom. Not only this, but this song started something. People would always put three fingers in the air, so many tattoos were made because of this song. And even after all that it's just a fantastic song. A slow, dreamy cushion of a beat with Kendrick spitting over the top without trying too hard or going at anyone but just trying to push his message across. A strong start to the top 10.
9. Backseat Freestyle
The beat on this song is crazy good. The indian type sample really is something that seperates this song and it was a really risky thing to do. I know when this song came out it really seperated rap fans and Kendrick superfans alike with the widespread worry that he had sold out (I personally loved the song when it was released). But when this is slotted into the concept of the album with his homies playing a beat CD and he's expected to spit a freestyle in the back of his friends car, it's the subject matter that you would expect to see when trying to brag to your friends. Not to mention I think the chorus on this song is so incredibly catchy, it's stuck in my head just from writing this.
8. Money Trees
A direct attack on commercialism is so common in rap these days that it's becoming incredibly old and competitive. But if it's done right then it's perfect and it really makes you reconsider things. This is one of those songs, it is quite annoying that it doesn't fit in with the rest of the concept of the album but it definitely stands out as one of the best on the album. Jay Rock also comes through with a feature that would body most people except Kendrick, a strong song that sits at 8 mainly due to the fact that it is unnecessarily long, but 6 minutes isn't too much of an issue in the grand scheme of albums.
i is Kendrick's catchiest song. That's a fact, it's catchier than King Kunta, ADHD, Swimming Pools, Backseat Freestyle etc... but it's not just the layers on top that make this song great it's the fact that with the power of music Kendrick is trying to bring together the Crips and Bloods as shown on the single cover art which shows a crip and a blood making heart shapes with their hands. Kendrick's weird, tainted singing voice has really changed since the days of ADHD and Money Trees. A truly amazing song.
6. King Kunta
This is a prime example of the change in direction since Good Kid, mainly due to the jazz and funk influences. King Kunta is widely loved and I think is his most widely commercial single so far. What makes King Kunta really great however is just how much fun the song is, the flow and beat aren't anything particularly complicated or special but it stands out perfectly on the album because it's so different. It's like a more grown up version of my number 7, i.
5. Keisha's Song
This is arguably Kendrick at his story telling finest, the idea behind this track is a prostitute who's basically stuck in this life because she had such a rough upbringing that she has no other option but to carry on with the life she's living. I love the fact aswell that Kendrick cuts no corners here, he attacks the cop who takes advantage of his position in verse 2 and the 'perverts' who 'yell at her'. Keisha meets a gruesome end towards the finale of the song, where a customer leaves her dying in the street. A dark and twisted tale that really showcases the parts of society that people would rather ignore, that's arguably the best feature of Section 80, it's bold and it gets into the nitty gritty parts of scoiety.
4. Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe
This song needs no explanation as to why it makes it into my top 5, this song is how to make a mellow, chilled out rap song, whilst still maintaining the integrity of the album. I like to think of this song on the album being the part where he's taking drugs and this is just a soft weed-induced circumstance of that (Kendrick does not smoke in real life by the way). The laidback beat on this song needs a shout out aswell because it really fits together with the whole vibe of the song and ultimately it's just perfect. Not to mention that the video is a direct attack at the Molly culture that has infested Hip-Hop like a plague.
3. Swimming Pools (Drank)
Kendrick's 'art of peer pressure' mark 2 in many ways. In the song Kendrick is at a party or some sort of gathering where he's being mocked for cradling a drink for way too long and he isn't drinking enough. Eventually he over drinks and ends up throwing up, but I feel like this song is a great warning to the youth to over-indulge themselves in that lifestyle too much. Not to mention the repetition of Drank in the chorus is catchy as hell, and I have to admit when Kendrick first released this song I absolutely hated it and I never really enjoyed listening to it at all. 4 years on it has become one of my favourite songs ever and sits pretty at third on this list.
This song was number 1 and was moved for reasons that you'll read in the explanation for I placed number 1 at 1, but this song is one of the most trippy beats and I love that it's an attack on how in this day and age everyone wants everything immediately and there is very little time spent on important things. Something I am more than guilty of myself. Not to mention that but it's all found out through conversation with a girl Kendrick has only just met, with awesome song writing and incredible flow Kendrick takes this song fro mellowed out-vibe to upper echelon and this is what seperates him from the rest of the rappers in the current generation, you can take an awful song and put Kendrick in it and it pushes the boundaries of brilliant immediately.
Before You See Number 1:
9/4 - The Number of songs overall/in top 10 from Good Kid, M.a.a.D City
6/3 - The Number of songs overall/in top 10 from To Pimp A Butterfly
5/3 - The Number of songs overall/in top 10 from Section.80
When I first drafted this top 20 (A time before Untitled, Unmastered) I put this at number 3, because I loved the song entirely but just loved ADHD and Swimming Pools, but then I saw the news story of a Black Lives Matter rally and all the people joined in to sing, in a choir type fashion, this very song. It was arguably one of the most powerful videos I've ever seen and the fact a group of people can come together and feel that a song represents them that well is just amazing and it is arguably one of the most positive things to happen to Hip-Hop in years so therefore this song could not possibly go anywhere else. Not to mention it is the standout song on the album (Go check the video aswell, directed by Colin Tilley, it's a work of art). We salute you Kendrick.