He dropped a new album, headlined Coachella and he recently announced summer tour dates. Kendrick Lamar is the man of the hour and while his new album, Damn is fire, some of his best features were not on any of his albums. Take a look at the five best Kendrick Lamar appearances that aren't on Kendrick Lamar albums:
5. “The Heart Part IV”
Taking aim at everyone from Donald Trump to Drake, “The Heart Part IV” can probably be counted amongst Kendrick’s most vicious tracks. Although it didn’t make the cut for DAMN., “The Heart Part IV” foreshadows the breakneck beat switches that ended up on album standouts like “DNA.” The lyrics ditch Lamar’s typical introspection and go straight for the jugular, using some phenomenal analogies. For instance, this take on the famous Russel Westbrook/Kevin Durant saga (which supposedly references Lamar’s relationship with Drake): [“You jumped sides on me, now you ‘bout to meet Westbrook/Go celebrate with your team and let victory vouch you/Just know the next game played I might slap the ___ out you.”]
4. “Never Catch Me” from Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead!
When Lamar collaborated with Instrumental Hip-Hop’s resident weirdo Flying Lotus, the producer said the following to Pitchfork:
“I appreciate that space when I can sit with the artist and really see how their genius works, and Kendrick is that guy. He’s a visionary thinker. Every time he raps on a song, he raps like I wish I could.”
At the time of that interview, Flying Lotus stated that the two collaborated on 12 or 13 tracks. Two were stated to appear on You’re Dead!, but one was axed for “political reasons.” The remaining number, “Never Catch Me,” is certainly the most abstract song Kendrick Lamar is featured on, but he rides the virtuosic synths and pounding bass drums marvelously while musing about mortality. Few artists have bridged the gap between the avant-garde and the mainstream so well.
3. “Black Friday”
Initially released as a taste of the Kendrick Lamar/J Cole collaborative album that doesn’t appear to be coming out anymore (or at least any time soon), “Black Friday,” like “The Heart Part IV,” was released as a surprise stand-alone single on Black Friday of 2015 and showcases Lamar rapping over the beat from J Cole’s song of the same name. The verses continue Lamar’s Tupac fascination from To Pimp a Butterfly (that album’s closing track, “Mortal Man” has an “interview” between Lamar and Tupac, spliced together from old Tupac clips) while simultaneously critiquing a Billboard list of the “10 Greatest Rappers of All Time” that famously omitted Tupac (but listed Lamar as #9) [“Billboard list need Tupac, damn/But number 9 makes sure he lives on, yeah”]
Black Friday is one of Lamar’s most technical pieces – packed to the brim with pop culture references and quick snaps into doubletime.
2. “Freedom” from Beyonce’s Lemonade
Easily the most anthemic of the songs on Beyonce’s Lemonade, “Freedom” is given a mighty assist from Lamar. His appearance isn’t even really a rap verse in the traditional sense of the word and he’s in and out of the song in under a minute. Lamar even steps out of his comfort zone and goes full on rock and roll in the last couple seconds of his appearance.
The lyrical content is full of Civil Rights-era allusions and fans over at Genius have myriad theories on how Kendrick’s verse (again) is chock full of Tupac references.
1. Big Sean’s “Control”
For never having an official release, “Control” sent shockwaves through hip-hop in 2013 and it’s safe to say that the uproar was caused solely by Kendrick Lamar’s verse. Lamar, who is from Compton, calls himself the “king of New York,” and calls out several rappers, by name, and says he’ll “murder” them (metaphorically of course). Although “beef” may be common in the genre, the industry standard is to “ghost,” or simply skate around the issue. Funnily enough, a mention in the song later became somewhat of a badge of honor and most had the grace to not even respond (excepting Mac Miller). Meanwhile, responding if you weren’t mentioned was seen as kind of gaudy and desperate.
Perhaps the greatest part of “Control” is that it perfectly embodies Lamar’s public persona. The rapper who was invited to the White House by former President Obama, who released a line of shoes with Adidas that incorporate the colors of both the Bloods and the Crips, who has low key donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Compton school system, and who doesn’t appear to drink or smoke, elevates the genre by both pushing it forward and harkening back to the bravado of its heyday. Put simply, “Control” is about being the best you can be. It’s about ambition and competition for the sake of bettering oneself.
It’s easy to forget that “Control” is a Big Sean song that was slated to appear on his sophomore album, Hall of Fame, as Lamar’s appearance is so prolific and all-encompassing. The track was cut from the album due to sample licensing issues.
Written by Eugene
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