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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

COLUMN: Kendrick Lamar is the best rapper of all time

Kendrick Lamar performs in Mexico City on March 23 at a music festival. Lamar is one of the most praised rappers of all time. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

After the release of the album “WE DON’T TRUST YOU” by rapper Future and producer Metro Boomin, Kendrick Lamar has been a hot topic in the rap community. After throwing direct shots at hip-hop stars J. Cole and Drake on Future’s song “Like That,” the hip-hop community has had to choose their side. 

Kendrick has always been one of my favorite rappers, so I didn’t hesitate to take his side. After hearing his high-level verse on “Like That,” I am ready to take it a step further.

I believe Kendrick Lamar is the greatest rapper of all time. 

Kendrick has such an impressive body of work with his singles, his features and his albums. Kendrick’s notable albums include “Section.80,” “To Pimp A Butterfly,” “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” “DAMN.” and “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.” Each album focuses on different issues and ideas. 

“Section.80” – released in 2011 – introduced Kendrick to the world and “To Pimp A Butterfly” confronts various social injustices found in society. 

“Good Kid, m.A.A.d city” describes life growing up in Compton, California. “DAMN.” talks about living as an African-American in modern America and “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” shows a vulnerable side of Kendrick, opening up about his mental health struggles. 

“DAMN.” was impressive enough to win the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Music, marking the only rap album to win a Pulitzer Prize. describes “DAMN.” as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” 

Part of what makes Kendrick the greatest of all time – or GOAT –is that “DAMN.” isn’t his best album, at least in my opinion. “To Pimp A Butterfly” bears that crown. 

Kendrick’s discography is what sets him apart from other rappers, each album is significant and timeless in its own way. Kendrick makes confronting social issues sound good – a difficult and underappreciated task. 

His ability to confront those issues is heavily apparent on the record “To Pimp A Butterfly.” An example from the track “The Blacker the Berry” is when Kendrick says “I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey,” Kendrick raps. “You vandalize my perception but can’t take style from me.” 

Kendrick pushes the boundaries, taking the racial slur “monkey” and flipping the connotation, embracing it. He proceeds by saying how the media often labels him as a rapper – damaging his perception –  but Kendrick considers himself more of a poet. 

“To Pimp A Butterfly” is also home to my favorite Kendrick song, “i”. I enjoy the intro to the song which turns crowd noise into a fast-paced beat from producer Rahki. My favorite part of the beat is the funk-styled guitar and implementation of a cowbell through various parts of the song.

“i” never fails to make me feel good, repeating “I love myself” throughout the chorus in an upbeat fashion. Kendrick’s vocals complete the track, matching the fast-paced beat. 

Beyond his talent for making music, Kendrick also knows how to make hits, with multiple songs hitting over one billion streams on Spotify. “HUMBLE.” is Kendrick Lamar’s most streamed song on Spotify with just over 2.1 billion views, “Money Trees” is another song with over 1.3 billion views. In June of last year, Kendrick was Spotify’s seventh most streamed rapper of all time. 

Kendrick also has two No. 1 Billboard hits, 12 top-ten hits, 50 Grammy nominations and 17 Grammy awards. 

Kendrick’s undeniable talent and ability to speak about real concerns mixed with his success on the charts is why I believe that Kendrick Lamar is the GOAT.

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