Not only one of the most gifted MCs of his generation — dare I say of all time — Kendrick Lamar is also one of the hardest working guys in hip-hop. As if crafting one of the most compelling and cohesive rap albums of recent memory wouldn’t fill any mortal musician’s plate, Top Dawg’s top dog racked up a considerable amount of guest appearances (39, to be exact) throughout last year.
Even without a new solo project on the horizon, K. Dot hasn’t taken his foot off the gas in 2013. Coupled with a tireless touring schedule, the Compton King has guested on records by everyone from J. Cole and Kid Cudi to Miguel and Solange. In fact, the demand is so high for Kendrick’s services that his management has “shut down” their MVP for the remainder of the year.
I get a million calls a day 4 a feature from @kendricklamar . I shut my MVP down until next year. Q, soul n rock are avail let’s work..#TDE
— dangeroo kipawaa TDE (@dangerookipawaa) July 6, 2013
So, while K. Dot looks forward to a rare break from recording (for anyone outside of TDE, at least), we decided to look back at some of the Black Hippy’s greatest features so far. Here are Kendrick Lamar’s 20 Best Guest Verses.
UPDATE: So, Kendrick delivered an absolutely earth-shattering guest verse on a track with Big Sean and Jay Electronica last night (Aug. 12). We thought it was only right to update our list accordingly.
Meek Mill Feat. Kendrick Lamar ‘A1 Everything’ (2012)
Of all his collaborations, Meek Mill seemed to rub off most on Kendrick Lamar; the Black Hippy yelled and growled boast after hyperbolic boast on the MMG MC’s ‘Dreamchasers 2’ banger, ‘A1 Everything.’ But that’s not to say he didn’t actually kill the verse. For all his clichéd claims (that Jordan comparison especially), K. Dot sounded hungrier than ever firing off all those “ca-ca-ca-ca”‘s.
Best Line: “Bitch I’m talking ca-ca-ca-ca then more ca-ca-ca-ca/ Hit your roof until I pop your top up/ Then more ca-ca-ca-ca, ’til I know I gotcha”
50 Cent Feat. Kendrick Lamar ‘We Up’ (2013)
Let’s face it: things will never be as good as they were 10 years ago for 50 Cent. Even worse for Fif, calling on MTV’s current Hottest MC in the Game for his recent ‘We Up’ single — an obvious ploy for popularity — didn’t quite go as planned; the record failed to make the desired impact (it didn’t even chart on the Billboard 100) and Kendrick ended up stealing the spotlight with a cheeky guest verse. Sorry Curtis, but “Eminem Kendrick Lamar murdered you on your own shit.”
Best Line: “I’m on Instagram looking at your favorite singer/ Debating on should I fuck her or jump on her single”
Kid Cudi Feat. Kendrick Lamar ‘Solo Dolo Part II’ (2013)
It’s a bit of an oxymoron (word to ScHoolboy Q) to invite a guest onto a track called ‘Solo Dolo,’ but little did Kid Cudi know that he’d be getting the perfect partner in Kendrick on his song’s sequel. The pair were in total sync as they oscillated between narcissism and contemplation; Cudi remembered the “sad n—-s back in the hood bumpin’ Ratatat” before shrugging off suckers, while K. Dot threatened to “blast and break legs” and then later confessed, “I’m proud of myself in a bad way.” For what it’s worth, Kendrick also came up with the hook on ‘Solo Dolo Part II’ — on the spot, apparently.
Best Line: “Turn quick, I don’t wanna play this for my daughter/ If my son heard it, probably look at you as his father”
Scoe Feat. Kendrick Lamar ‘Thank You’ (2012)
Kendrick Lamar is hailed by many as the savior of West Coast rap, but he pays tribute to those who paved the way on ‘Thank You’ alongside Scoe, aka Kurupt’s little brother. Over a typically crisp, soulful Jake One beat, the Black Hippy vividly recalls his first encounter with hip-hop at just four-years-old. From dropping a dub on Dr. Dre’s ‘The Chronic’ to collaborating with the legendary producer on his own acclaimed album nearly two decades later, Kendrick just wanted to thank hip-hop for saving his life.
Best Line: “‘Cause I copped every record that dropped/ Dropped the dub just to hear Doc drop a jewel for the sake of hip-hop”
Pac Div Feat. Blu & Kendrick Lamar ‘Cross-Trainers’ (2012)
It was California Love as Pac Div, Blu and Kendrick Lamar united on ‘Cross-Trainers.’ Not only delivering on its promise of “the return of that 808 trunk hit,” the thumping, throwback record also doubled up as a friendly lyrical competition — or a race, if you will — between some of L.A.’s finest. Of course, Kendrick took home the gold ribbon with an acrobatic verse that would leave any competition out of breath.
Best Line: “You should stop in and grab a degree/ In the science of how to emcee”
Solange Feat. Kendrick Lamar ‘Looks Good With Trouble’ (2013)
They say you’ve got your whole life to make your first album, and Kendrick Lamar brilliantly chronicled his formative years on his debut major label LP, ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city.’ On Solange Knowles’ ‘Looks Good With Trouble’ though, the Compton kid finally told the world what life’s like after your album drops — and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Kendrick revealed how difficult it is to maintain a romantic relationship when you’re a famous rapper, and he did it in such a conversationalist way that you couldn’t help but to feel for the guy. #FirstWorldProblems
Best Line: “How can I get this convo to stay comprehensive/ When the service is never working/ And the Wi-Fi is out commission?”
Mac Miller Feat. Kendrick Lamar & Iman Omari ‘Fight the Feeling’ (2012)
If ‘Watching Movies with the Sound Off’ was a 180 from the pop-friendly sounds of Mac Miller’s chart-topping debut, ‘Blue Slide Park,’ then ‘Macadelic’ was the necessary stepping stone. Mac’s 2012 freebie had its moments of brilliance, and none were more moving than ‘Fight the Feeling.’ While Iman Omari’s beat gently rattled speakers, Kendrick Lamar’s closing verse shook listeners with pressing questions. You needed to hit replay to think of your answer and catch that double entendre.
Best Line: “We all surely die eventually, so what’s your callin’?/ Oh, you left your phone behind?”
Jay Rock Feat. Kendrick Lamar & Major James ‘Roll On’ (2010)
It’s almost hard to believe, but in 2010, Jay Rock was leading the TDE pack (today it seems like he’s just the dude to spit a hot 16 and then disappear for six months). Anyway, it was Jay’s ‘From Hood Tales to the Cover of XXL’ mixtape cut, ‘Roll On,’ that gave us an early glimpse of what his label mate, Kendrick Lamar, would become. Even three years ago, young K. Dot was acutely aware of the unique insight he brings to the game: “You see my story is a story untold/ By the kid from Compton making straight A’s for new clothes.”
Best Line: “I’m the same good kid from the block where you was raised/ Didn’t have a pot to piss in, peeing in your PJs”
Smoke DZA Feat. Kendrick Lamar ‘How Far We Go (Uptown 81)’ (2011)
No matter how much lyrical depth Smoke DZA displayed on 2011’s ‘The Hustlers Catalog,’ the countless kush references still seemed to cloud peoples’ judgement. It didn’t really help, either, that he bolstered ‘How Far We Go (Uptown 81)’ with an appearance from Kendrick Lamar, who delivered one of the standout verses on the entire project. Riding the wave of the sumptuous strings, K. Dot tied up references to Clive Davis, Clyde Drexler, Alicia Keys and (hilariously) Yung Berg into one of his most supple verses to date.
‘How Far We Go’ was also the first collaboration between Kendrick and then-burgeoning producer Hit-Boy, who would reunite for ‘Backseat Freestyle’ a year later.
Best Line: “Don’t press your luck when I’m pressed for time/ ‘Cause when the press get this verse they sure to press rewind”
Omen Feat. Kendrick Lamar & Shalonda ‘Look of Lust’ (2011)
Not too dissimilar to his more recent appearance on BJ The Chicago Kid’s ‘His Pain,’ Kendrick Lamar was seriously on his storytelling shit on Omen’s (an artist on J. Cole’s Dreamville imprint) ‘Look of Lust.’ Over smokey riffs and sprinkling keys, the Compton kid recounted his first sexual encounter. His tone was noticeably subdued, almost nonchalant, but the detail was so vivid it could have passed for soft-core porn:
Best Line: “She said, ‘That ain’t a problem I’m wet/ But first you gotta fuck my brain like a surgeon'”
Black Hippy ‘U.O.E.N.O. (Remix)’ (2013)
Rocko and his moronic one-remix-a-week marketing tactic relegated “U.O.E.N.O.” from one of the best records to one of the best punchlines of 2013 (shout out to a certain Rick Ross line, too). And he probably still doesn’t even know it. Black Hippy’s remake, though, was their chance to check in with fans before they hit the road, remind the world that they’re still running this rap shit, and make a few comical pop culture references. After being ranked as the seventh Hottest MC in the Game by MTV, Kanye West historically ranted about buying Sway Calloway his first television; here’s how Kendrick (who was coincidentally crowned the Hottest MC) flipped the script:
Best Line: “And since Sway done swayed that list/ He got a flatscreen the next morning”
Talib Kweli Feat. Curren$y & Kendrick Lamar ‘Push Thru’ (2012)
When the percussion softens, leaving only the strings to create a stirring intermission, you knew Kendrick Lamar was about to bring something special on ‘Push Thru.’ The fact that producer S1 switched up the beat to introduce a guest on a Talib Kweli record speaks volumes. Anyway, about that verse: the Black Hippy beautifully captured society’s tug-of-war between prosperity and oppression, humility and egotism and life and death. It’s just a shame that his ideas probably flew over the heads of those he was addressing.
Best Line: “Too many daps you might receive from the things you achieve, relax/ That’s what my mental say, but my physical’s been detached”
Dom Kennedy Feat. Kendrick Lamar ‘We Ball’ (2012)
Even Kendrick Lamar likes to get ig’nant once in a while, y’know. You won’t hear his verse on Dom Kennedy’s ‘We Ball’ quoted in a case for Kendrick Lamar as the Voice of a Generation, but his cadence on the ‘Yellow Album’ cut was a testament to his chameleon qualities. K. Dot blurted out line after uncharacteristic line — even reducing ‘Section. 80’ to his ticket to fame, ho — but you could literally hear him change gear as he did “105 on 105.”
Best Line: “What happened yesterday, baby girl? Fix your mood/ ‘Cause I don’t like my head with some attitude”
Rapper Big Pooh Feat. Kendrick Lamar & Ab-Soul ‘Rapper Pooh-A-Lude’ (2011)
Before Kendrick Lamar became, well, Kendrick Lamar, the excitable, squeaky-voiced lyricist notched a few collaborations with ex-Little Brother MC, Rapper Big Pooh. And, ironically, it was on Pooh’s ‘Rapper Pooh-A-Lude’ that K. Dot prophesied his future greatness: “Number one eating Ramen noodles, rhyming crucial under the sun/ Kudos to the most high, which is me.” Sidebar: Ab-Soul also killed this.
Best Line: “It’s profound that I’m underground touching mainstreams like river beds”
XV Feat. Kendrick Lamar ‘Textbook Stuff’ (2011)
In the same way Jay-Z noted (albeit disrespectfully) that Nas “witnessed it from your folks’ pad” on “Takeover,” Kendrick Lamar is an observant MC. He wasn’t actually involved in street activity growing up, but he can step into the shoes of those he knew and watched, and tell their tale. You don’t have to look further than XV’s ‘Textbook Stuff’ to know that. After rapping about gang-banging, violence and working them corners, K. Dot threatens “to kill a man,” but not without a chilling pause. It’s subtleties like these that make Kendrick’s narrative all the more convincing — even when it’s not strictly his own.
Best Line: “I’m in the back of a black Buick/ Finna black out, like February/ Ain’t that how blacks do it, right?”
Tech N9ne Feat. Kendrick Lamar, ¡MAYDAY! & Kendall Morgan ‘Fragile’ (2013)
Although it’s the newest verse on this list, Kendrick’s appearance on Tech N9ne’s ‘Fragile’ is already one his most impressive all year. The song, in all its stripped-down, sorrowing glory, is only a response to media criticism (only, right?), but Lamar’s fire and emotion is enough to convince you that a poor review is as painful as heartbreak itself.
Best Line: “Puttin’ my heart and my soul in these lines/ Tellin’ me platinum and gold all the time”
Black Hippy ‘Black Lip Bastard (Remix)’ (2012)
Only on a few occasions has Black Hippy appeared on wax in full force, so you knew all four wanted to bring the goods on Ab-Soul’s ‘Black Lip Bastard’ remix. The verdict is still out on who took home the body bag award, but K. Dot certainly put together a strong case. Not only did he deliver one of his darkest bars to date (“Look inside my parking garage and see a collage/ Of every person I despised since the moment I turned five”), King Kendrick shamelessly flexed, taking the honor of Nicki Minaj and Rihanna with him.
Best Line: “Calculate my steps and strategically took my time/ Even falling off, I land on the ass of Nicki Minaj”
Ab-Soul Feat. Kendrick Lamar ‘ILLuminate’ (2012)
Don’t you just wish there were like a hundred more Ab-Soul and Kendrick Lamar collaborations? ‘ILLuminate,’ one of the many standouts on the former’s ‘Control System’ LP, was essentially a five-minute coming out party for TDE’s most introspective souls; Solo bragged he’s “been killing this since Cam made ‘Oh Boy’,” while Kendrick cleverly flipped a line from ‘What’s the Difference’ to place himself on the same pedestal as Snoop and Dre. The best part: Kendrick’s verse might not have even been the best on the song, which is a testament to how Black Hippy are running this rap shit right now.
Best Line: “They wanna know how close me and Dre and Snoop is/ Or how the shoe fits when they choose this to beat 2Pac”
BJ The Chicago Kid Feat. Kendrick Lamar ‘His Pain’ (2012)
This is more of a monologue than a guest verse (actually, there’s three of them), and ‘Pain’ is more Kendrick Lamar’s song than BJ The Chicago Kid’s. The Black Hippy’s outing on this track was less about rappity-rap technicalities and more about pure storytelling — and, boy, did he tell a story. Put it this way: K. Dot steered a violent, selfish son-of-a-bitch to enlightenment within the space of two minutes. His hoarse voice brought a scary level of realism to it all, too.
Best Line: “Bullets is nameless, I guess this is meant for/ Me to give them a 100 dollars then trash my pistol”
ScHoolboy Q Feat. Kendrick Lamar ‘Blessed’ (2012)
‘Blessed’ was a pained and deeply personal interval to the flow of drugs, sexting and drink-driving on ScHoolboy Q’s ‘HABITS & Contradictions,’ but that isn’t the sole reason it stood out on the album. Through jittery flows, Kendrick Lamar added a whole new level of eloquence to Q’s powerful message, even using the very problem — gun violence and drug-dealing — to illustrate the life-or-death struggle of the streets.
Best Line: “Blast at anybody say that you can’t flip/ This crack into rap music, every other zip is a track”
Big Sean Feat. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica ‘Control (HOF)’ (2013)
Step aside, ScHoolboy Q, because Big Sean got rinsed on his own shit so bad he practically shrunk in the wash. Last night (Aug. 12), Funkmaster Flex premiered a monstrous, No I.D.-produced track called ‘Control (HOF)’ which lured out the Mr. Hyde to Kendrick Lamar’s Dr. Jekyll. Get this: not only did the Compton kid have the audacity to crown himself the King of New York, but he told pretty much every relevant new school rapper — by name — that they’re on his hit list.
Kendrick’s verse triggered an explosive social network reaction that hasn’t been seen since, well, Myspace was popping. Pusha T responded, Joey Bada$$ responded, Big K.R.I.T. responded. Hell, even rappers that K. Dot didn’t call out were chiming in on Twitter (some more butthurt than others, probably because of the fact). Leave it to the most unassuming rapper to shake up the whole damn game.
Best Line: “I’m usually homeboys with the same n—-s I’m rhymin’ wit/ But this is hip hop and them n—-s should know what time it is/ And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale/ Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake/ Big Sean, Jay Electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller/ I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you n—-s”