The Big Stepper: Ranking Kendrick Lamar’s Top Five Songs


Cooper Tamase, Opinion Editor

Kendrick Lamar, one of the most polarizing and respected figures in the entire music industry, has accumulated a lengthy and impressive catalog of music over the course of his nearly two-decade-long career. For over a decade, the rapper has captivated music listeners across the globe with his detailed and emotion-filled lyrics through his 8 solo albums. Nowadays, Lamar has fused his rapping abilities with a wide array of instrumentals, both upbeat and mellow, while featuring artists to help fuse genres together in his music. He’s no longer just the kid from Compton, California rapping about his struggles growing up, rather he’s taken his time, lived his life, and now tackles heavy themes in his music which is reflected in his music over the course of his catalog. For these reasons, I took it upon myself to listen through Kendrick Lamar’s discography and find my top five songs from him.


Here are the results of my listening:

Five: “FEAR” – from “DAMN.”


We all have fears, right? We are all human, right? This is Kendrick’s confession of what he’s feared throughout his life while conveying the fact that he is human too, and not some figure worthy of mass idolatry. Throughout “FEAR.”, we hear Kendrick spill his thoughts and fears at different points in his life, as a young child, as a young adult, and at his current age (as of 2017). It is extremely interesting to get insight into the fears and thoughts of a man who many see as this supreme and perfect figure in the music industry. The instrumental also gets stuck in my head so easily, with the looping and high pitched sample with those ad-libs in the background, they add more deepness to a song that already contained great depth. 


Four: “FEEL”. – from “DAMN.” 


Kendrick is fed up and expresses it all on “FEEL.” This song is comparable to a therapy session with Lamar venting and ranting about his feelings through various lyrics that begin with phrases like “I feel,” and “Feel like.” These thoughts and feelings aren’t just surface level phrases such as “I feel [insert random emotion]” Kendrick is expressing his frustrations with society and his life, which makes this song so powerful. His raw emotion and delivery provoke emotion and motivate me to give it my all because of those frustrations. I also enjoy the low pitched sample and smooth instrumental that accompanies Lamar’s vocals. My absolute favorite part of the song comes at the two minute and 50 second mark of the song where Kendrick switches his delivery and adds more emotion to his vocals, and as he is doing that the instrumental becomes intensified.

Three: “Money Trees” (featuring Jay Rock) – from “good kid, m.A.A.d city” 


Oh Money Trees, everyone’s favorite Kendrick Lamar song. Don’t get me wrong it is an amazing song but it is slightly annoying how it can (technically) be called a “Tiktok song.” I cannot deny how infectious the hook is and I can see its appeal to the ears of the mainstream. The instrumental that accompanies the lyrics cannot leave my head for lengthy periods of time because of how sweet-sounding it is. Oftentimes I listen to Money Trees for Jay Rock’s verse rather than Kendrick Lamar himself, Jay Rock gives his all and brings so much energy to this already upbeat song. Lyrics from both Rock and Lamar convey the struggles of growing up in intercities and provide listeners with insight as to both artists’ upbringings, which allows for a connection to be built between the song and its listener. 

Two: “DUCKWORTH” – from “DAMN. 


Despite, “Money Trees’” superiority in the instrumental category, “DUCKWORTH.” trumps “Money Trees” in the lyrics category. It is incredibly interesting and thought-provoking to hear Kendrick rapping about his life events and how they brought him to where he is today. If lyrics aren’t the primary focus of some listeners, “DUCKWORTH. is a good song to play at the gym to sprint those extra steps or to get that extra kick of adrenaline. This is also the perfect conclusion to “DAMN. as it ties together all of the lyric “plot points” that build the album’s story, and is the full package of what Lamar’s best album is all about. One of the coolest moments on the album comes at the end of “DUCKWORTH.” as a brief backwards audio clip plays, and if the clip is played in reverse it is a sped up version of the whole album. 

One: “i” (single version) – released prior to “To Pimp a Butterfly” 


Everything I said for Money Trees applies to “i” ten fold, the single version of this song makes for a spectacular listen. This version of “i” should be the first Kendrick Lamar song that anyone listens to because it accurately displays the topical lyrics and beauty of Lamar’s music. Kendrick’s lyrics are extremely powerful as he conveys the struggles of people as they face the judgment and realities of life. The tempo at which this song plays will make anyone get up and start bobbing their head to the instrumental. Oh these instrumental and sample choices, this is what makes “i” such an amazing song as the rapid drums and guitar fit right in with Lamar’s delivery. I could keep expressing my opinions on this song forever, but I know that I’d lose your attention if this entry was any longer. 


After his resurgence following the release of 2022’s “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers”, Kendrick Lamar has truly solidified his status among both the greatest rappers and artists of this generation. I look forward to hearing more music from Lamar and I’m looking forward to reviewing more artists’ music.