King Kendrick brings 'The Big Steppers Tour' to Dublin's 3Arena for headline shows on 13 & 14 November 2022, following the release of Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.
We’ve decided to take a deep dive into Kendrick Lamar’s most powerful songs before he steps onto the 3Arena stage at the tail end of this year. To make things easier for ourselves we’ve limited it to one song from each of his studio albums. Otherwise, the list may never end! So…in chronological order of release, here are Kung Fu Kenny’s most powerful songs.
*Disclaimer – These songs contain explicit language and themes of death and violence.
Album: Section 80 (2011)
Honorable mentions: Ronald Reagan Era, F*** Your Ethnicity, Keisha’s Song.
For many, this was a first glimpse into the potential of a young Kendrick Lamar, who at that time had not long dumped his previous hip-hop moniker, K.Dot. The song is steeped in the search for enlightenment, tackles race issues with nods to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Huey Newton, and touches on the pressures of fame with Lauryn Hill and Kurt Cobain both being name-dropped. The track was produced by fellow multi-platinum rapper J. Cole.
“Visions of Martin Luther staring at me
Malcolm X put a hex on my future, someone catch me”
When asked what the meaning behind HiiiPower is Kendrick stated “Hiiipower, it basically is the simplest form of representing just being above all the madness, all the bull****. No matter what the world is going through, you’re always going to keep your dignity and carry yourself with this manner that it don’t phase you.”
Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst
Abum: GOOD KID M.A.A.D CITY (2012)
Honorable mentions: The Art Of Peer Pressure, Swimming Pools, Good Kid.
This album cut runs deep at 12 minutes and 3 seconds. Split into two parts, SAMIDOT is at times, a gut-wrenching true story that sees Kendrick rhyming at the peak of his powers.
On ‘Sing About Me’, Kendrick first speaks from the perspective of a slain friend’s brother, who also succumbs to a life of gang violence. “‘Sing About Me’ is definitely a true song,”. He continued, “First verse is speaking from my partner talkin’ to me, speakin’ on a story of how I was there when his brother passed and I got to watch him take his last breath.”
The second verse is a continuation of the tragic tale told on Section 80’s ‘Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)’. This section of the song is rounded off with Kendrick rapping on his own behalf, reflecting on how each of these situations had personally affected him.
“I suffer a lot
And every day that glass mirror get tougher to watch
I tie my stomach in knots”
‘Dying Of Thirst’ speaks on the need for God in the lives of young men from Kendrick’s community who are engulfed in a life of gang culture. He finishes each verse by repeating the refrain ‘Dyin’ Of Thirst’, which alludes to baptism. The song concludes with audio of an elderly lady speaking to a group who are out seeking retribution for a friend who was gunned down. “See, you young men are dying of thirst. Do you know what that means? That means you need water, holy water.”
“Tired of runnin’, tired of huntin’
My own kind, but retirin’ nothin'”
Album – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
Honorable mentions – Blacker The Berry, Mortal Man, Complexion.
“Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright”
Choosing just one song from Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 Magnum Opus is a difficult task. There’s an argument to be had for the more visceral and lyrically cutting ‘Blacker The Berry’, where Lamar admits to his hypocrisy in the fight for black empowerment.
We’ve opted for ‘Alright’, produced by the legendary Pharrell Williams who also lends his vocals on the infectious chorus. The song, already fantastic in its own right, became more than just a song when it was adopted as the unofficial anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. The words ‘We Gon’ Be Alright’ could be heard ringing out at protests all across the USA in the preceding years, originating at a police brutality protest in Cleveland in 2015.
Album: DAMN. (2017)
Honorable mentions: FEEL, XXX (feat. U2), DUCKWORTH.
FEAR, is probably THE stand-out track from 2017’s Pulitzer Prize-winning album DAMN. Each intricate verse of the song is set 10 years apart, where Kendrick breaks down his worries and fears at that particular time of his life. The song begins quite innocently with the first verse describing his fear of punishment from his mother at 7 years old. Next, he takes a more somber tone as he details his fear of being killed when age 17.
“I’ll prolly die ’cause that’s what you do when you’re 17,
All worries in a hurry, I wish I controlled things”
In the last verse, Kendrick gives us a glimpse into his psyche as a 27-year-old after achieving fame and fortune. He reveals that despite all of the accolades, acclaim, and financial gain, fear still remains a prevalent factor in his life. He recounts “fear of losing it all”, “fear of losing creativity” and “fear of missing out on you and me” as some of his most terrifying thoughts.
“When I was 27, I grew accustomed to more fear,
Accumulated 10 times over throughout the years”
Mother I Sober (feat. Beth Gibbons of Portishead)
Album: Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers (2022)
Honorable mentions: United In Grief, Aunties Diaries, Mirror.
Mother I Sober, the penultimate track on Lamar’s most recent studio effort, see’s the rapper at the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen him. No topic is off-limits as he offloads his buried trauma across the three dense verses. He talks of his mother’s experience with abuse, his past infidelity, and the guilt that comes with these issues.
“Til this day can’t look her in the eyes pain is takin’ over
Blame myself, you never felt guilt ’til you felt it sober”
The sparse, piano-laden instrumental sets the tone perfectly for some of the rapper’s most personal lyrics to date. Beth Gibbons of Portishead is on chorus duties and her purposely subdued tone compliments that of Kendricks, giving the song an extremely haunting air.
“I wish I was somebody (ooh-ohh, oh, oh)
Anybody but myself“
Kendrick closes the final verse exclaiming “This is transformation!”, seemingly letting go of the guilt he once held. This is followed by audio of his wife and daughter thanking him for breaking a “generational curse”. Sam Dew closes this emotional rollercoaster of a track by bellowing out “Before I go fast asleep, love me for me, I bare my soul, and now we’re free.”
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