Kendrick Lamar doesn’t bless just anybody with a guest verse. But when Beyoncé calls, you answer. The most important rapper right now—who will be one of the headliners at ESSENCE Festival June 30-July 3 in New Orleans—adds his pointed lyrical flavor to the mix on Lemonade.
“Freedom”—the Compton MC’s powerful collaboration with Queen Bey—has us poring over his best and most monumental features. Here are eight that we’ll talk about for years to come. Keep reading to find out if “Freedom” made the cut.
8. Jhené Aiko featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Stay Ready (What a Life)”
This is Kendrick giving sensual seduction, proving his versatility. His softer flow coupled with Jhené’s airy vocals make for the perfect vibe-out and chill record. (Skip to 1:32 for his verse.)
7. DJ Khaled featuring J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T. & Kendrick Lamar, “They Ready”
Snapchat may have given DJ Khaled his new claim to fame, but the DJ and producer has been known to get some of the hottest rappers on one track. Up against two of the best new-school MCs in the game, Kendrick does not disappoint. (Skip to 1:54.)
6. BJ the Chicago Kid featuring Kendrick Lamar, “The New Cupid”
Vulnerable Kendrick is everything. BJ the Chicago Kid’s soulful vocals and Kendrick’s lyricism are a match made in music heaven. Together they’ve created a flawless soundtrack for lovers who’ve succumbed to the idea that love doesn’t exist. “As I play out the Commodores, my faith destroyed/My heart don’t work, I’m unemployed/The feeling is void, don’t know what I need.” How could you not relate? (Skip to 2:56.)
5. Jidenna featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Classic Man” (remix)
“Classic Man” was an easy contender for song of the summer last year. But we didn’t talk enough about how Kendrick snapped on the remix. He’s on his cocky flow. Kendrick talking his ish may be my favorite Kendrick. You can tell he’s having fun while spitting straight bars. (Skip to 1:39.)
4. Kanye West featuring Kendrick Lamar, “No More Parties in LA”
Honestly, I almost overlooked this one. Then I read the lyrics as I listened and I got it. K-Dot and Ye on a track together is a moment in and of itself, but Kendrick makes Kanye step his bars up. It’s one of Kanye’s most lyrical verses on The Life of Pablo. And we have Kendrick to thank for that. (Skip to 0:50.)
3. Beyoncé featuring Kendrick Lamar – “Freedom”
This is another one that I didn’t initially love until reading the lyrics. Hear me out. He sounded dope, and the lyrics were obviously good. But initially the star power of the two overshadowed the actual song. Now I realize this pro-black anthem, at this moment in time, couldn’t be more perfect. “Like yeah, open correctional gates in higher desert/Yeah, open our mind as we cast away oppression/Yeah, open the streets and watch our beliefs.” Chills. (Skip to 2:55.)
2. Fredo Santana featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Jealous”
Lyrically this is one of the best Kendrick Lamar features ever. It’s not conscious Kendrick. It’s trap and real-talk Kendrick. He changes his flow when the beat drops, and it’s magical. Not a weak bar in sight. (Skip to 0:42.)
1. Big Sean featuring Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica, “Control”
I can’t remember a more talked-about verse in hip-hop since Nas’ infamous “Ether” diss record. Kendrick proclaimed himself the “King of New York.” He then told his peers he had love for them, but he was “trying to murder” them in this rap game. K- Dot almost managed to make you forget that the great Jay Electronica is on the song. When you think about Kendrick Lamar features, this reigns supreme. (Skip to 3:12.)
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