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The metamorphosis of Kendrick Lamar—from a good kid, to Hip-Hop's poet laureate—has been a joy to witness.
With his art, Lamar has reconciled with racism, gang-violence, depression, self-hatred, and his own quest for spiritual fulfillment. From Section 80 to DAMN—each project is rich with flair and adds credence to his frequent "best rapper alive" proclamation. He's earned the praise of many but once upon a time, Cornrow Kenny was just a blimp on everyone's radar.
Now when he drops, Hip-Hop circles seem to stand still... at least for a few moments... to give him their undivided attention. Passion—seeps into every verse. His heart—speaking in every song.
Look no further than "The Heart" series as proof; and listen no longer unless you're using JBL speakers. Now, here's a ranking of Lamar's classic series:
'The Heart Part 1' - Rank: #4
To kick off the series, Lamar raps with a veracious tenacity on The Heart Part 1. It's as much a venting session for him as it is a lyrical exercise. With so much to prove and an eagerness for stardom flowing through his voice, this track is like the restlessness of waves before a hurricane. The cool jazz instrumental is the perfect backdrop for Lamar's unpredictable, free-verse bonanza where he shouts out J. Cole, and insists that we do more than "boo" "wack rappers." Geez... he hadn't even dropped his Overly Dedicated mixtape yet.
'The Heart Part 2' - Rank: #3
With a sample from deceased graffiti artist Dash Snow, Lamar decrees and declares, "fuck a funeral, just make sure you pay my music respect." There's a paranoia of death; or at least a fear that his art might not reach the pinnacles he desires. Looking around himself, there's pain and desperation in his voice. He doesn't want to be trapped by his surroundings forever; it's a sentiment that makes the listener root for him when he says, "I hope these bars get farther than Compton."
And further than Compton they went. This is a tough contender among the other songs in this series. His vocals are raw, and his intensity is through the roof. But this track's true magic lies in its conviction and in Kendrick's determination to raise the ceiling for himself, and push his art further. It makes "my future so bright, I'd probably go blind before I blink twice" feel only semi-hyperbolic.
'The Heart Part 3' - Rank: #1
"When the whole world see you as Pac reincarnated, that's enough pressure to live your whole life sedated."
Three days before the release of his sophomore LP/ major label debut, Lamar released The Heart Part 3. After Section 80, he worked closely with Dr. Dre, and appeared on numerous features. More importantly, West Coast legends like Snoop Dogg passed him the torch.
And that's why this is the best in the series: the stakes were high for this MC. The bar he kept raising for himself in parts one and two finally caught up to him. Until at long last, he became the torch bearer that west coast pioneers felt they could crown. The pressure he had put on himself to be great became magnified ten times over.
You can here the gravity of these expectations in every word uttered; as well as the confidence he had that Good Kid Maad City would be a special moment for Hip-Hop. This is the only track in this series with features from fellow TDE members too.
Aren't you glad Hip-Hop didn't "die on October 22nd?"
'The Heart Part 4' - Rank: #2
"Don't tell a lie on me, I won't tell the truth 'bout you".
At five foot five, who would've expected Kendrick to be such a bully? He's either addressing Drake or Big Sean- or both. And with his skill-set and pen-game, it's exciting hearing him taunt his peers knowing fully well that they "don't wanna clash". Listening to "The Heart Part IV" is like watching the quite poet in the back of the class steal the most popular kid's lunch money, spin around, laugh, and then brag about it during an open-mic.
It's a victory lap that's fun to listen to because no one will race him. It stimulated the anticipation for DAMN; but Lamar had nothing to lose by shadowboxing with his adversaries.
So what do you think? Is this the right order?