Why Kendrick Lamar Is a Sensitive Rapper

The lyrical rapper, like his current rival Drake, also shows his emotional side at the BET Hip Hop Awards.

Kendrick Lamar (Hutton Supancic/Getty Images); Drake (Christie Goodwin/Getty Images)

(The Root) — While the federal government hangs by the hair of its chinny chin chin, hip-hop MC Kendrick Lamar is playing the big, bad wolf, challenging rappers during Tuesday night’s broadcast of the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards cypher to step up their art and performance in respect for the culture’s battle tradition. Surrounded by his Top Dawg Entertainment brethren, Lamar, through the cords of his signature old-man voice, freestyled over an instrumental of Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones.” He raps, “And nothing’s been the same since they dropped ‘Control’/And tucked a sensitive rapper back in his pajama clothes.”

Word on the Internet has Drake marked as Kendrick Lamar’s targeted victim. Perhaps. Drake has an album titled Nothing Was the Same, and Lamar starts his verse with a subtle reference to it. Drake has been taunted as the sappy singer-rapper, and Lamar appears to take a jab, calling him a “sensitive rapper.”

Assuming that Lamar, who is No. 1 in my 2013 AP Class of MCs, is addressing Drake, my No. 2, I don’t believe the Compton, Calif.-raised rapper is arbitrarily throwing darts at Drake or any other rapper, for that matter. Seen from this perspective, the verse is another installment of Lamar’s mission to lyrically demolish his competition for no reason other than to ensure his legacy among hip-hop’s greatest mic controllers. And to do so, he appears to call Drake “sensitive” because all has to be fair in hip-hop love and war — even though Lamar presents dark reflections of his sensitivities on the platinum-selling album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, released in October 2012.

To make this point, I have listed my top five most insightful — and dare I say “sensitive” — excerpts from the Dr. Dre protégé.

1. “Money Trees

“It goes Halle Berry or Hallelujah/Pick ya poison/Tell me what you doin/Everybody gon’ respect the shooter/But the one in front of the gun lives forever/And I been hustlin’ all day/Thisa way/Thata way/Through canals and alleyways/Just to say/Money trees is the perfect place for shade/[And] that’s just how I feel … Be the last one out to get this dough? No way!”

The strings in the song and the ladies singing on the chorus remind me of Outkast’s “Rosa Parks.” Can we get a remix with André 3000 and Big Boi?

2. “Poetic Justice

“If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room, would you trust it?/I mean you need to hear this/Love is not just a verb/It’s you looking in the mirror/Love is not just a verb/It’s you looking poor maybe/Call me crazy/We can both be insane/A fatal attraction is common/And what we have common is pain … “

Drake is on this Janet Jackson-inspired, “Any Time, Any Place”-sampled rap ballad. Need I say more?