1. This is arguably the most personal Kendrick has ever been on a track about another rapper, who just happens to be his boy and fellow Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) phenom ScHoolboy Q. He speaks his praises of Q and predicts his future success years before everyone started wearing bucket hats. Kendrick jumps back and forth for the rest of the verse between the two conflicting sides Q’s life—on one hand making a desperate plea for him to give up hustling and doing drugs to focus on the rap game and providing for his child and girlfriend but then on the other (more masculine) hand understanding the need to put food on the table by any means and how manhood is defined in Compton. He wraps it up with a blue pill/red pill Matrix reference, acknowledging that the decision is ultimately Q’s to make but ironically oxy pills are exactly what Q had to choose to part with. ScHoolboy gives the song (and his fans) an ending it (they) deserved with his definitive answer in the very last few bars. 6 years later, I think it’s safe to say he made the right choice.

2 . This one’s a little more out there for people who don’t stray too far from rap. Kendrick teams up with rock band Imagine Dragons for a haunting remix of their hit song that focuses in on the radioactive decay of this new age of civilization. Seems like a stretch I know, but Kendrick’s vocal skills and enigmatic flow make him a master of the crossover hit. He drops a verse that feels like he’s racing against a doomsday clock until he finally runs out of time, resulting an insanely dope crescendo at the end. Their Grammy performance of this was also pretty epic.


3. This is pretty much all one long, unapologetically real verse the length of an entire song. A young (but already woke) Kendrick questions the irresponsible spending habits of the people in his Compton community, highlighting the very real financial literacy problem that unfortunately impacts minorities across the nation. Kendrick points a finger at his own people (and even himself) for choosing name brands over financial sense, becoming literal slaves to their vanity. The slave metaphor slices back the other way when he digs up the ugly root cause of this behavior—the enslavement of their ancestors and the understandable desire to floss because of it. I’d suggest listening to the end of the track to hear a much more goofy and relaxed Kendrick than we’re able to find now due to how famous he’s become. If you’re still taking suggestions, also check out the sequel to this song featuring everyone’s favorite vanity slave Gucci Mane.


4. Here we get a young, more raw Kendrick showing off his mastery of the fast flow. We’re used to him always having some underlying message in every piece he puts out but way back in 2010 he still had to prove his skills as a lyricist before people would actually listen to his point of view. Prove it he does with some rhyme combinations sprinkled in this that will make your head spin. The simple fact that he didn’t pass out from 3 straight minutes of that energy is an impressive feat in itself.

Disclaimer: You can’t sue me if the visuals in the video give you a seizure.


5. I honestly believe having ScHoolboy on a track brings out Kendrick’s A game. We already saw it in Birds/Beez where he noticeably outclassed Q in terms of ability, but fast forward a few years and the tables have turned with ScHoolboy’s first verse able to go pound for pound with Kendrick’s, if not just maybe beat it. This emotional track feels like a direct sequel to Birds/Beez, staying around the same theme of the struggles to escape the dangers of the hood but this time getting personal with Q speaking to a friend of his who lost his son. Kendrick closes it out with a tale of a man falling back into the same old vices of the streets but deciding not to hit the block anymore after a music-induced epiphany in a stolen Expedition. Kendrick doesn’t specify who he’s talking about, but could he possibly have been referring to Q committing to turn things around after really witnessing tragedy and finally taking in the message of Birds/Beez? Nah I didn’t think so either…until you realize that I’m an embarrassingly big TDE nerd and remember that ScHoolboy mentioned driving a very similar stolen Expedition in a track 3 years later. Whether or not it’s about Q, Kendrick is at his best when relaying the stories of his friends caught up in the struggle. He promises to get back to this community with his new album anticipated to be dropped April 7th so odds are good that we’re in for another classic. Get ready.