The 25 Best Rap Verses of the Last 5 Years

2. Kendrick Lamar "m.A.A.d. city" (2012) (1st Verse)

Producer: Sounwave, THC, Terrence Martin (add.)
Album: good kid, m.A.A.d city
Label: Top Dawg, Aftermath, Interscope

The second title track on Kendrick Lamar's epic Compton tale from good kid, m.A.A.d city begins with a hell of a theoretical: "If Pirus and Crips/All got along/They'd probably gun me down/By the end of this song." Flatter yourself, much, K-Dot? And yet, by the end of the first verse, that line, which could sound like a persecution complex, is less theoretical than it is assurance, as Lamar details many of the plain realities of gang life on the ground in Compton, and the attitudes that go with it, especially as far as the local body count goes. It is a hyper-violent reminiscence, made all the more so by how patently real it is, or probably is, the detailing more or less rendering the question of whether or not it's real a moot point. And all of that goes without mentioning Lamar's flow, a lyrical ankle-breaking crossover offensive that includes a three-syllable Cognac pronunciation (cone-ee-yack) and a censoring bleep, the name of whoever K-Dot felt the need to redact (or "redact").

It's a fast, breathtaking, but utterly hard verse where lines smash into each other, and bars are connected by lyrical hairpin turns. There's a lot to point to on this album to explain the seemingly endless plaudits around Kendrick Lamar, but narrowed down, few stand up to the out-and-out creative brilliance and lyrical gymnastics quite like "m.A.A.d city." —Foster Kamer

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