To hear the rap community and gatekeepers tell it, Kendrick Lamar is sitting on two contemporary classics. The proclamation hasn't been lost on him—he's boldly held himself up as the greatest multiple times this year, including on his latest studio album, Damn. Those same pundits and fans are already hailing that project as the front-runner for album of the year.
There's no debating the fact that Kenny has quite the discography for a twentysomething. In fact, it's so strong it makes ranking his projects even harder than it would be for an equally great artist whose career has more obvious peaks and valleys. Who can say, truly, how much better the contemporary coming-of-age movie Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is against the less replayable but deliciously complex To Pimp a Butterfly? Is it disrespectful to those two moments to call Damn better while we're still processing it? (Shit, some of us are still processing TPAB, shouts to Lucy.) How high is too high for Untitled Unmastered, an EP of leftovers that is, in many ways, just as nourishing as some full-lengths? These are challenging questions. Kendrick Lamar makes challenging projects. We did our best to do right by his catalog. At the very least, we made it look sexy.