Producer: Taz Arnold, a.k.a. Ti$a, Whoarei, Sounwave
Album: To Pimp a Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar recalls an on-the-road, hotel room breakdown again and again on To Pimp a Butterfly. On “u,” one of the most harrowing songs in his entire catalog, he stages that scene, subjecting  himself to some of the most painful criticism a person could hear from a close friend or family member. “I place blame on you still/I place shame on you still,” the first things he tells himself. What happened? His teenage sister is pregnant, a failure of his influence, and he left his Compton friends and loved ones as they were dying in the street, in the hospital. Saxophone, the reed instrument that comes closest to mimicking the range and tone of the human voice, wails mournful behind Kendrick’s words. Taz Arnold and Whoarei, with help from T.D.E. regular Sounwave, produced “u,” and the drumming is funereal. If you’ve ever had a drunken argument with a family member, say a meltdown on Christmas Eve, you know how much it can hurt to hear (and believe) “I’m fucked up, but I ain’t as fucked up as you.” This song crushes you, like being trapped between a boot and the floor. —Ross Scarano