Looking back at Kendrick Lamar’s Top Dawg Legacy
By Spencer Yu, Contributor
Kendrick Lamar is widely regarded as one of the best rappers of this generation and potentially one of the greatest of all time. His consistently good discography and varying sounds have made him one of the most notable artists in the hip-hop genre. With his next album speculated to release soon, I thought now would be a great time to look back at five of his best songs ranked in no particular order.
From the first time I heard this track I knew it was going to be one of my personal favourites. The sample it’s built around sets it apart from the rest. The sound of The Knight Hawk’s “Jet age of tomorrow” adds such a futuristic feel to the song and is something that I have never heard before. It plays so well with the flow of the track. Lamar’s bars aren’t as strong in “ADHD” in comparison to the other tracks on this list. But the song’s overall vibe makes it, in my opinion, one of his more notable tracks and showcases his ability to create a feeling within music.
“DUCKWORTH” is the last track on Lamar’s latest album DAMN. and I personally think it’s the strongest track on the album. It perfectly encapsulates Lamar’s style of storytelling. The production by Ninth Wonder is also spectacular and plays so well with the progression of the song’s story. I thought it was really cool how this track dives not only into Lamar’s past specifically, but also the story of how his manager, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, met his father known as Ducky.
This meeting led to Lamar being signed to Top Dawg Entertainment. What perfectly ends this album is the final bar of the track that goes: “because if Anthony killed Ducky, Top Dawg could be serving life while I grow up without a father and die in a gunfight.” I think that just puts into perspective how a chance reaction gave birth to one of the greatest rappers of our generation instead of having him fall into the more negative gangster lifestyle.
One of Lamar’s most popular songs, “M.a.a.d City” is a true-to-the core west coast rap song. The track is split into two parts; the first is a look into Lamar’s childhood and what it was like to grow up in south central Los Angeles while the second half of the song focuses on Lamar’s teenage years and the struggles he faced regarding substance abuse and peer pressure. The track also features one of the most notable west coast rappers of the 90s, MC Eiht. While it isn’t the most popular track on the M.a.a.d City album, it’s definitely a showcase of Kendrick’s raw ability when it comes to the rap game.
“Sing about me, I’m dying of thirst”
This is without a doubt Lamar’s most emotional track. It paints a picture of the tragedies that happened around him as a teenager living in south central Los Angeles. The first half of the song, “Sing About Me,” tells two different stories of people he knew growing up that ultimately motivated him to leave the gangster lifestyle behind. Touching on topics like death, prostitution and mental health, it paints a somber picture for the listener as he goes into great detail in the third verse about the many trials he has faced before reflecting on himself as a person and making the decision to better himself.
The second half of the song, “Dying of thirst,” focuses on the journey of Lamar leaving the gangster lifestyle behind and repenting for the many sins that he has committed while being a part of it. It’s a very powerful track about Lamar’s redemption and it gives us a personal look at how he learned to deal with his trauma and how he moved past it.
This song has been gaining popularity in recent years, and given its subject matter, it’s clear to see why. Off of his debut album Section 80, the song touches on topics like racism and fighting against the system. It has become the anthem for those who advocate against racial injustice all over the world. It really shows that aside from rapping about his past experiences that he has a firm grasp on social justice issues happening around the world and that he isn’t afraid to speak on such matters. Lamar describes the concept of “HiiiPoWeR” as,“a way of thinking with higher expectations and achieving richness in body and mind.”
Lamar’s upcoming release is one of the most anticipated releases in the music industry currently. With it being the final album with his long time label Top Dawg Entertainment, only time will tell what he does next with his illustrious career.