Kendrick Lamar has been painting pictures with words since he used the moniker, K. Dot, in 2006. The Compton kid is now a grown man, hitting 28 today (June 17) and a whole 24 hours after the late great, Tupac Shakur.
Here, VIBE revisits their favorite verses from King Kendrick. Trust, it was insanely difficult to pick just one.
In Summer 2011, a former co-worker dropped me a line and said this kid out of Compton named Kendrick was, as he put it, “almost great.” As a child of hip-hop who has witnessed the power of the hype machine only be disappointed later, I remember side-eyeing the notion. Out of sheer boredom, I listened to K. Dot’s well-received Section.80 ‘tape and became a believer, but it was hearing the fast-paced “Rigamortis” that I understand K.Dot’s power.
The breath control and the wit garnished with the subtle arrogance was fresh air to my musical ears that had been so deprived of originality. What took Kendrick three takes to master took me days to simply get through the first verse. Kendrick ignored the trends and the formula to earn radio spins and crafted one of hip-hop’s most lyrical tracks to date. Backed with horns and jazz riffs, “Rigamortis” killed the competition by breathing new life into the industry. A noble act, indeed.
You knew this verse had to be mentioned. Kendrick’s 2013 “Control” verse still rings bells two years later. Ask any of the rappers mentioned — J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale, Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electronica, Tyler, The Creator and Mac Miller — and they’ll probably tell you there has yet to be another mention of their name that caused this much commotion. K. Dot challenged the entire rap game… and nothing was the same. —Mikey Fresh, Music Editor
The conviction with which Kendrick spits is what’s entirely spellbinding. His BET cypher, to this day, is one of the sickest freestyle verses I’ve heard. —Marjua Estevez, VIVA Editor
The rapid delivery of Kendrick’s verse along with the scattered motion of the beat kept this track on repeat and remains in the top five of my favorite tracks from the Cali native. —Camille Augustin, Editor
Flipping through Saturday morning cartoons was daily routine as a Yung ‘Delle. When K. Dot name-dropped Animaniacs and Scrooge McDuck in the first verse, my ears immediately toon’ed in. A couple hundred listens later, it was a classic case of Kendrick Lamar talking his sh-t: ‘Animaniac the only thing that gave me peace of mind/ I’m a maniac when aiming at the enemy that lied/ Tell a story that I’ll never grow to 25/ Not to worry, every warrior will come and see euphoria/ And that’s a covenant I put on every tribe.” His flame emoji rhymes have been the standard since 2010’s O.verly D.edicated and 2009’s The Kendrick Lamar EP but here, Kendrick tugging at my childhood heart strings made me happier than a bowl of Fruity Pebbles.
—Adelle Platon, Associate Editor
Kendrick Lamar’s wordplay and lyrical skills are razor sharp, but for me, the blade stuns the most on Ab-Soul’s spotlight-sharing paean “Illuminate.” The Control System cut features a junior K. Dot blacking on the track:
“Black on black tip like Kinta Kunta
Black is back bitch I’m the the coupe-da
Black on black crime resent the shooter
Black, black, black, I intend to mute you” —Stacy-Ann Ellis, Assistant Editor
Kendrick has mastered the art of storytelling. The intro of this joint just cracks, literally – the chord changes, the smooth jazz undertones. The four minutes we’re transported into the mind of Young K. Dot’s internal struggle of keeping it real with his Compton homies is awe-inspiring.
—Ashley Monaé, Vixen Editor
It’s no coincidence that Kendrick’s birthday is a day after Tupac’s. Poetic justice, really. I interviewed K. Dot back in 2011. This is after sending out random tracks by him on my Twitter for nearly a year and a half. We spoke about his mind state revealing “The Heart” series. The first one was over Mos Def’s “Umi Says” and talked on his struggle breaking into the game. “The Heart Pt. 2” is a free flowing position of where he was starting to get shine for his work, seeing the future and has specks of all the things his thoughts wander through, lyrically. “They come at random times. They build up and then I have to release them,'” he said. For me, this is my fav as he is about to ascend to star status and “The Heart Pt. 2” prepares his spirit for that.