The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
Four albums in, TDE frontman Kendrick Lamar has cemented himself as one of the most important artists of this generation. As an MC who puts out very strategic and conceptual bodies of work, fans have come to expect elite quality with each release. In between album cycles, K. Dot hasn’t been one to throw out an abundance of feature verses, especially in recent years. When Kendrick does decide to step into other artists' world, he typically takes full advantage and flexes his versatility.
Today, we take the time to highlight 11 of the Compton MC’s most classic guest verses. Almost a decade in, Dot has had tons of exceptional efforts, making for some tough decisions on the list. Check it out below.
“Dedication” - Nipsey Hussle (2018)
Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap was undoubtedly one of, if not the best, hip hop album released in 2018. One of the project’s standout moments came on track five when Nip and Kendrick linked up for “Dedication.” K. Dot delivered a motivational verse where he detailed his personal journey, showed admiration for what Nipsey stood for and marveled at how far the West Coast had come. This was a special record, where both MCs dropped some jewels. Rest in peace, Nipsey.
“The City” - The Game (2011)
In 2011; a young Kendrick earned another opportunity to rap alongside one of the West Coast’s finest, The Game. While also contributing a fire hook on this one, it was the tail-end of the track where Kendrick truly stole the show. Dot’s gritty, rapid-fire, a cappella verse as the song concluded was a moment that surely got the attention of anyone who wasn’t already up on the “good kid.” His passion, quick-paced cadences, and undeniable authenticity was just further confirmation that the future of Compton rap was going to be in great hands moving forward.
"That Part (Remix)" - ScHoolboy Q & Black Hippy (2016)
Kendrick’s 24-bar verse on ScHoolboy Q’s “That Part” remix is one of the purest exhibitions of his technical skills as a rapper. The relentless flow out the gate, along with his impressive rhyme schemes throughout, are enough to excite any true fan of the craft. The verse wasn’t only a “rappity rap” flex in the slightest, as he dropped more than a few braggadocios quotes that we as fans loved to hear. “I’m JAY-Z in a blow out press” stands out as one of the coldest lines on the record. It’s always dope when we get to hear the “Black Hippy” crew rap together, and this was another great contribution to Kendrick's catalog.
“Turn Me Up” - Ab-Soul (2010)
“You'll drown tryna backstroke on concepts that I wrote, I was a black sheep, but now I'm just a goat”
Listeners are never left disappointed when Kendrick and his TDE labelmate Ab-Soul get together for some lyrical sparring. The timeless instrumental on this record catered perfectly to the styles of both rappers, putting their love for the art form on full display. Over a relatively stripped-down beat, Kendrick and Soul dropped verses that didn’t just highlight their abilities, but allowed them to speak to what they’d been working to bring to the game. The melancholy, but hopeful singing of “I just gotta be heard,” as the song fades out pretty much sums up the track's intent.
“Holy Key” - DJ Khaled & Big Sean (2016)
On DJ Khaled’s 2016 album, Major Key, Khaled provided another opportunity for Big Sean and Kendrick to compete on wax. Sean spit an exceptional verse on "Holy Key," too, but Dot spazzed out. Touching on his spirituality, denouncing the “foundation of Lucifer’s spirit,” Kendrick gets into some deep content throughout, but packages it in his signature delivery. The subject matter on this track differs from what rappers typically come with on Khaled joints, but this verse is indicative of the messages Kendrick strives to get across in his music.
“Wat’s Wrong” - Isaiah Rashad & Zacari (2016)
“I told Zay, I'm the best rapper since twenty-five, Been like that for a while now, I'm twenty-nine/Any nigga that disagree is a f*ckin' liar”
In 2016, TDE’s Isaiah Rashad put out a great body of work titled The Sun’s Tirade. “Wat’s Wrong” served was one of the standouts, while also being the first collaboration between Rashad and Kendrick. Dot contributed a dazzling verse on this record with his raps being thematically based around the duality of his personality, as well as life. He rapped, “Depending on the way I feel, I might kill everybody around me/Might heal everybody around me, how the wind blow.” With an effortlessly rapped, fast-paced flow, Kendrick gave Zay some of his most profound raps of 2016.
“Deep Water” - Dr. Dre (2015)
Hopping on a record produced by Dr. Dre is a dream scenario for any rapper coming up out of the West Coast. Having had that opportunity a couple of times, Kendrick always puts his best foot forward and this track was no exception. With Justus and Anderson .Paak on the hook, and a hard-hitting instrumental perfect for the whip, Kendrick delivered a charismatic verse vividly visualizing the hectic streets of Compton.
Control” - Big Sean & Jay Electronica (2013)
“I'm usually homeboys with the same niggas I'm rhymin' with/ But this is hip hop, and them niggas should know what time it is”
“Control” was one of those rare moments in hip hop that completely shook the culture. From the OGs to the youth, and to the underground and mainstream. We can already hear the voices of those who feel like all he did was “call out names.” What people tend to overlook is that outside of telling every MC in the game that he was the top dog (no pun intended), Kendrick’s quality of raps were high and his approach was unique before and after that particular stretch. This is as confident and menacing of a verse as you’ll hear from K. Dot, and the intensity was so strong that it left many confused as to whether this was a call for all-out war or just a fiery verse in the spirit of competition. Regardless of how you peg it, this verse is one of, if not the most, impactful of the past decade.
“Buried Alive” - Drake (2011)
Drake’s 2011 grammy-winning album, Take Care, featured Kendrick on the “Buried Alive Interlude,” which served as another affirming moment to his growing base. The rapper spent time on this record vividly pondering his incoming success, the effects it may have and the journey that it takes you on as an artist. It was a truly introspective moment that, at the time, obviously mirrored K. Dot's situation, but also aligned with where Drake was in his career to a certain extent. Looking back on what both artists' careers have blossomed into makes this an even more special record.
“Blessed” - ScHoolboy Q (2012)
Perhaps ScHoolboy Q and Kendrick’s most heartfelt collaboration “Blessed” gave way for both artists to speak candidly, while giving motivation to those who may need a boost. Q dedicated the record to a close friend who had recently lost his son, and that tone and energy manifested itself, as Kendrick provided a verse filled with inspiration and passion. "Blessed" was easily one of the best records to come out of the TDE camp at that time.
“Nosetalgia” - Pusha T (2013)
“When I was ten, back when nine ounces had got you ten/ And nine times out of ten, niggas don't pay attention/ And when there's tension in the air, nines come with extensions”
Pusha T and Kendrick joining forces for “Nosetalgia” presented two MCs in their purest forms. One verse each -- just rap. Both lyricists delivered on this track, dropping classic verses over a gritty Nottz and Kanye West production. We got vivid coke raps all over from Push, while Kendrick took a slightly different approach on the same topic by describing the things he saw coming up, ultimately making it parallel to his abilities as an artist. From the storytelling to the double entendres to his alliteration and flows, Kendrick had it all on this one.
More by Marcus Blackwell: