The essential songs from the best album artist of our time.
Kendrick Lamar excels at making classics. More so than his lyrical prowess, or his ability to bring everyone into his orbit during a guest verse (both of which are undeniable), his primary strength thus far in his career is crafting full, rich bodies of work that seem primed to stand the test of time. Each of his last three albums has a score of 90+ on Metacritic, his debut album is still a favorite among diehard fans, and even his preceding mixtapes and interstitial compilations hold up well on their own.
Every Kendrick song that's ever been included on a full-length Kendrick project is better within the context of that project than it is as a standalone song, but today, we're attempting to evaluate them on the latter scale. For example, "u" and "i" may form the twin pillars that hold up To Pimp a Butterfly's premise, but by themselves, they're not strong enough to make this list. But if a song is a world unto itself, as many of Kendrick's are, that's taking precedent over popularity, catchiness or crazily proficient rapping. We're not including guest verses-- not even the "Hall of Fame" mix of Big Sean's "Control"-- but there may be one or two Kendrick tracks on here that popped up as loosies and never made the tracklist on any of his albums...
Debate in the comments.