Kendrick Lamar is this generation’s rap messiah, the latest recipient of an entire genre’s hopes and dreams. To Pimp A Butterfly is not only one of the best albums of the year, but also one of the densest in some time, as Kendrick’s musical language has matured extensively since his last album in 2012.
Today is Kendrick’s 28th birthday, and so to celebrate, we wanted to focus on an area where Kendrick has been hyperactive for most of his career – guest verses. Whether it’s his earlier grimy stuff as K. Dot or his more recent, artsy features, the Compton rapper is known for punching a hole through your song.
Take a ride with us down Crenshaw as we rank Kendrick Lamar’s best guest verses.
15. Jay Rock – Killa Cali (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) 
Before he started going by his real name, Kendrick was doing drive-bys on his homies songs, and here he dumps all over this sample of Bob Marley’s “No More Trouble.” Notice how much he sounds like Lil Wayne; after all, he did make a whole mixtape themed around Carter III.
14. Consequence – “Up Against The Wall” (Feat. Roc Marciano & Kendrick Lamar) 
Bet you didn’t know Kendrick and Roc Marciano had a song together (Consequence made mention of it here). Kendrick gives us a little neighborhood tour while making sure you understand his position in hip-hop.
13. Schoolboy Q – “Try Me” (Feat. Ab-Soul, Jay Rock & Kendrick Lamar) 
When Kendrick doesn’t try too hard he can be lethal on the mic, and on this early Schoolboy cut he drops his voice into lower registers to match the creeping beat.
12. Terrace Martin – “Reasons For Seasons” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) 
Kendrick has this great way of expressing the MC’s internal conflict, and that talent came to a head on TPAB. This verse almost foreshadows that album, and it makes sense, as Terrace Martin was a central component to TPAB.
11. OverDoz – “Taking Me Down” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) 
Kendrick often has a fraught, yet lighthearted relationship with women in his music, and what better artists to talk about complexity with than OverDoz?
10. Jay Rock – “Roll On” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar & Major James) 
The Kendrick Lamar EP voice is in full effect for this dope guest verse on a Jay Rock single with a low budget video.
9. Kid Cudi – “Solo Dolo Part 2” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) 
This isn’t Cudi’s best music, but god damn if he made the right decision getting Kendrick on this. Lamar seems to love destroying other people’s songs, and that’s exactly what he does here.
8. Skeme – “I Remember” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar & Bryan Roberts) 
People slept hard on this Skeme album, but everything about it was done well, so it’s a no-brainer that K. Dot show up for a murderous verse.
7. Schoolboy Q – “Blessed” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) 
Few rappers, if any, could write a verse as technically on-point as Kendrick on this. His sense of cadence is unparalleled in hip-hop, and it’s been that way for the past five years.
6. Fredo Santana – “Jealous” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) 
Something about the adrenaline that builds in Kendrick’s verse makes you want to jump up and kick shit over when he crescendos. Who would have thought Fredo Santana could pull it out of him?
5. Drake – “Buried Alive” (Interlude) [Feat. Kendrick Lamar] (2011)
This song was a pivotal point in Kendrick’s career, as well as an example of how deep his songwriting could go.
4. Slim The Mobster – “Whose House” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) 
Kendrick’s verse on this is like an extended preview of what was to come on good kid, m.A.A.d. city, and hearing him over some old school chops is always refreshing.
3. Game – “The City” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) 
Kendrick sounds so hungry on this verse, it’s as if he wants to crush Game and take over as the premier Cali rapper. Isn’t that what he did?
2. Big Sean – “Control” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica) 
Has rap even recovered from this verse yet? On “Control” Kendrick put a crater in the industry that’s yet to heal, and his claim as the King Of NY hasn’t really been disproven.
1. BJ The Chicago Kid – “His Pain” (2012)
The emotional complexity of this song is staggering, and it’s only elevated when Kendrick’s voice cracks under the weight of his pain. “I analyze on how a saint can play the villain / Is my life coincidental or just God willing?”