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The 30 Best Kendrick Lamar Lyrics, Ranked

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Very few artists can disappear for years between album releases and still have fans impatiently awaiting their next move, but that’s the spot that Kendrick Lamar has been in for a decade now. He’ll inevitably go down as one of the greatest rappers of all time and to do that requires not only classic albums and commercial success but of course, incredible lyrics.

As we wait for the Compton rapper’s next album, we’ve ranked his best lyrics. Let us know what your thoughts on the list are and if you think we left anything out.

30. “I move the crowd like Artest and them”

Cosmic Kev Show Freestyle

Kendrick has also rapped this one on a couple of different radio stations, but most notably on the Cosmic Kev Show back in the summer of 2012, just a few months away from his debut album. It’s the wit of this line, referring to The Malice at the Palace and comparing it to how he moves crowds with his words.

29. “I’m the best rapper alive, Jiggaman should have retired, I’m going after Kanye, Lupe Fiasco and Nas, Snoop Dogg and Mr. André, Eminem, Bussa Buss Rhymes”

‘Monster Freestyle’

This was ‘Control’ before ‘Control’. These words came back in 2010 in a freestyle that Kendrick recorded the night that Kanye West released ‘Monster’ as part of the G.O.O.D. Music Fridays weekly releases.

28. “Visions of Martin Luther staring at me, Malcolm X put a hex on my future, someone catch me”

‘HiiiPoWeR’

‘HiiiPoWeR’, produced by J. Cole, was the first time that many had ever heard of Kendrick and he came out with a bang, perfectly describing his state of mind at the time.

27. “Dreams of living like like rappers do”

‘Money Trees’

‘Money Trees’ is so great that it has more than one place on this list. Of course, this line comes from Kendrick reminiscing on how he used to feel back in the day, but due to its nature, it only gets better with time, especially as Kendrick does things exactly no other rapper does. So many of us in the Hip-Hop space that aren’t rappers can relate.

26. “I know some rappers using big words to make they similes curve, my simplest shit be more pivotal”

‘Poe Mans Dream (His Vice)’

Another brag about how effortless Kendrick’s ability is. He doesn’t even have to try hard to be ahead of the competition. Even better, he said this more than ten years ago now.

25. “When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?”

‘Mortal Man’

‘Mortal Man’ ends To Pimp A Butterfly, a masterpiece, no matter how you or I feel about it. This line is a question of loyalty and acts as the refrain on the song, with the last lines of ever verse leading into it differently. Not to mention the use of “fan” in two different ways.

24. “From Compton to congress, set tripping all around, ain’t nothing new but a flu of new demo-crips and re-blood-icans, red state versus a blue state”

‘Hood Politics’

The idea of the biggest gangs in the world being our police forces and political parties isn’t a new one, but Kendrick gives a great spin on it here, by drawing parallels between the colours of parties and gangs, while also working in wordplay for “demo-crips” and “re-blood-icans”.

23. “I don’t wear crosses no more, Yeshua’s coming back, I ain’t scared of losses no more, I see life in that”

‘Holy Key’

‘Holy Key’ is a DJ Khaled song that features Kendrick and Big Sean, a pair of rappers who sparred with each other on record but are cool now. This pair of bars from Kendrick is great but truthfully, the entire verse is mind-blowing.

22. “I know what I know and I know it well not to ever forget, until I realised I didn’t know shit, the day I came home”

‘Momma’

‘Momma’ is one of the less-mentioned songs from To Pimp A Butterfly, but with so many great songs on that project, that’s not really an indictment on it. They say that “wise is the man that knows he’s a fool” and that’s the epiphany that Kendrick has here.

21. “Everybody a Crip ‘til they black and blue, everybody a Blood ‘til they haemorrhaging”

‘Perfect Pint’

Some more gang-related wordplay here, this time courtesy of Kendrick’s verse on Mike WiLL Made-It’s ‘Perfect Pint’ which also features Gucci Mane and Rae Sremmurd. This is commentary on how willing people are to join gangs until things get crazy. 

20. “Halle Berry or hallelujah”

‘Money Trees’

A great spin on the duality of good vs. bad, which was of course a big theme on good kid, m.A.A.d city. Kendrick himself has described this line as “hallelujah being the more good in me and Halle Berry being the actual vice of what’s going down”.

19. “Restraining from the doja, imagine if I smoked, I’d probably come up with a quote so heavy you’ll forget every album you heard from Hova”

‘Turn Me Up’

To get the full hit of this bar (no pun intended), you have to understand that it came on Ab-Soul’s ‘Turn Me Up’ which came out in 2010, before Kendrick had even dropped Section. 80. His confidence was already off the charts and of course, his idols have now become his rivals.

18. “Me and Top Dawg playing rock, paper, scissors in court, a real hustler lose money just to go get some more”

‘The Heart Part 4’

This might sound like a throwaway line until you realise that him and Top Dawg actually did play rock, paper, scissors in court one time and it was caught on camera. The carelessness to do this in court for presumably a lawsuit and then rap about it is the kind of attitude fans love in their rappers.

17. “Made my first million fucking dollars, bought a Bible, oh yeah, God got me, made my second million dollars, bought a chopper and binocular, I’m scared, this shit don’t happen to everybody”

‘We Up’

50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar’s ‘We Up’ is an underrated collaboration from 2013. 50’s hook on the song is just as infectious as any of his choruses over the years and Kendrick’s verse is a standout, where he talks about transitioning into fame and success.

16. “I could never end a career if it never start”

‘untitled 07 | 2014 – 2016’

‘untitled 07’, better known to fans as ‘Levitate’, is a song that takes place in three parts and this is from the middle. The beat switches up and Kendrick raps what might be one of the better verses of his career. This line in particular is scathing and is likely aimed at Jay Electronica, who was sending shots at Kendrick’s career around this time before he had even come out with his debut album.

15. “Most of y’all throw rocks and try to hide your hand, just say his name and I promise that you’ll see Candyman”

‘ELEMENT.’

This is another line that could be aimed at Jay Electronica, but also Big Sean, who took shots at Kendrick on ‘No More Interviews’. Either way, it’s a statement to everyone in Hip-Hop about what can happen if you’re direct. Unfortunately, we’re yet to see Kendrick in a battle.

14. “I put my life in these sentences, fucking right, it’s either that or life sentences”

‘Westside, Right On Time’

‘Westside, Right On Time’ is a lesser known Kendrick Song that came out a short while after his major label debut, features Jeezy and is produced by Canei Finch. This line from it sums up the situation for many that many rappers have addressed over the decades – that if you’re from the hood and not rapping or playing basketball, you might end up dead or in jail.

13. “Wicked as 80 reverends in a pool of fire with devils, holding hands, from a distance don’t know which one is a Christian, damn”

‘Hol’ Up’

‘Hol’ Up’ is a little bit of a deep cut from 2011’s Section. 80, but this line alone means it should get more props than it does. Kendrick describes the paradox of reverends holding hands with devils and uses it to talk about not only his own mistrust, but the hypocrisy of many reverends and the duality of good and evil.

12. “Everybody heard that I fuck with Dre and they wanna tell me I made it, n*gga I ain’t made shit, if he gave me a handout I’ma take his wrist and break it”

‘The Spiteful Chant’

For some reason, ‘The Spiteful Chant’ with ScHoolboy Q doesn’t appear on the version of Section. 80 that appears on streaming services, which means it doesn’t get its due. Around the time of this album dropping, there were a lot of rumours about Dre being Kendrick’s mentor and the way K. Dot addresses it here is great, ruthless in his tone and pointing out that he has to do the work himself.

11. “Let bygones be bygones, but where I’m from, we buy guns and more guns to give to the young”

‘The Heart Pt. 2’

‘The Heart Pt. 2’ from Kendrick’s 2010 mixtape (O)verly (D)edicated is arguably the best entry in the series and has a bunch of quotables, two of which make this list. This is the first, which features a great contrast from the “let bygones be bygones” cliché to the harsh realities of Compton.

10. “We used to beefing over turf, fuck beefing over a verse, n*ggas dying, motherfuck a double entendre”

‘The Heart Pt. 2’

The second quotable from the second entry in ‘The Heart’ series is also one where Kendrick makes a sobering distinction between perception and his reality. He talks about people being so infatuated with Rap beef and wordplay while people around him are actually dying. It’s a similar sentiment to the one he expressed in ‘Hood Politics’ when he rapped “I don’t give a fuck about no politics in Rap… my little homie Stunna Deuce ain’t never coming back”.

9. “Looking in the mirror, I’m embarrassed, I’m feeling like a suicidal terrorist”

‘Buried Alive (Interlude)’

With the way their careers went from this point on, including multiple shots at each other, it’s pretty insane to think that Kendrick Lamar had his own song on Take Care. Many argue that he has the best verse on there too, which is tough to argue with. He kicks it off in a strong way, talking about himself blowing up as an artist and his conflict about it.

8. “At 27 my biggest fear was losing it all, scared to spend money, had me sleeping from hall to hall, scared to back to section 8 with my mama stressing, 30 shows a month and I still won’t buy me no Lexus”

‘FEAR.’

Kendrick called the three verses on ‘FEAR.’ the best of his career, so you know we had to include at least one lyric from here on it. We chose this one because of how Kendrick explains the trauma from not having money back in the day still affecting him now, when he makes millions in a month.

7. “I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the king of New York, king of the coast, one hand, I juggle them both”

‘Control’

We could have chosen the obvious lines from ‘Control’, but we think these are the lyrics that hold the most weight and are the brashest. To reference 2Pac beforehand, who was of course born in Harlem but repped the West Coast, is perfect.

6. “Bodies on top of bodies, IVs on top of IVs”

‘m.A.A.d City’

‘m.A.A.d city’ is one of the two title tracks from Kendrick’s 2012 album and on it, Kendrick raps “IVs on top of IVs”. A simple line… or is it? IVs here refers to an IV drip, a .44, and an Imperial Village Crip. An incredible triple entendre.

5. “Ain’t no black power when your baby killed by a coward”

‘XXX.’

In one of the most powerful lines from DAMN. and his entire career, Kendrick addresses the hypocrisy of human nature in this very specific context which only holds its weight as the years pass by.

4. “The next time you feel like your world’s about to end, I hope you studied because He’s testing your faith again”

‘Faith’

‘Faith’ is a standout from Kendrick Lamar EP, Kendrick’s 2009 mixtape. On it, Lamar raps about the difficulty of keeping your faith in God while bad things happen to you. He ends the final verse with this line, one that can resonate with anyone of any faith.

3. “I can dig rapping but a rapper with a ghost-writer? What the fuck happened? I swore I wouldn’t tell but most of y’all sharing bars like you got the bottom bunk in a two-man cell”

‘King Kunta’

This was a great line even before the ghost-writing allegations about Drake came out just a few months after Kendrick rapped it. He conveys disgust at those lying about their pen and ends the thought with a funny analogy.

2. “Third surgery, they couldn’t stop the bleeding for real, then he died, God himself will say ‘you fucking failed’, you ain’t try”

‘u’

‘u’ is one of the more emotional songs in Hip-Hop. On it, Kendrick acknowledges how hard it is to love yourself sometimes, addresses his guilt about leaving people behind in Compton only for them to die and admits suicidal thoughts. This line about even God telling him he failed is cold.

1. “Everybody gon’ respect the shooter but the one in front of the gun lives forever”

‘Money Trees’

On the chorus of ‘Money Trees’ with Jay Rock, one of the best songs of his career, K. Dot points out how while someone who commits a murder gets some respect in the form of fear, the person that dies is the one that’s truly honored and ironically, lives forever in the heart of others.

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