Kendrick Lamar established himself as the latest in a long line of hip-hop saviors with the release of his sophomore album, the critical and commercial hit concept album good kid, m.A.A.d city, an album brimming with creative musical and lyrical ideas that advanced a mixed-up central narrative while making powerful statements about the oppressive inner-city lifestyle that affects us all and informs the songwriting of this Compton native. Somehow Lamar managed to live up to his hype with his third album, 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly, an even more ambitious project whose meanings are all the more opaque and yet topical for the year of “Black Lives Matter.”
A quick review of his recent compilation of recent outtakes untitled unmastered. or his oft-overlooked first release Section 80 just confirms Lamar’s talents as a rapper and songwriter. Let’s celebrate his young career and the impressive discography he’s already accumulated by counting off his 10 best songs.
10. “F*ck Your Ethnicity”
The first track on Kendrick’s first album immediately set a high bar for his young career, touching upon his recurring lyrical theme of race by forcefully tossing it aside with a muffled but still infectious chorus. The illustrative opening of a man lecturing a group of inner-city teenagers around a campfire sets the narrative tone for the album and Kendrick’s career so far before the powerful beat underlined by a piano riff swoops in and Kendrick begins speaking movingly about his ambitions as a rapper and a proud escapee of ghetto life willing to say what others would fear to.