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)

3. “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe

“I am a sinner/who’s probably gonna sin again/Lord forgive me/Lord forgive me/For things I don’t understand/Sometimes I need to be alone … “

Although the song has multiple layers of commentary and Lamar makes references to the “bitch” being the music industry, it is clear that the best part of “BDKMV” is the idea that we can all relate to having someone interrupt our mood. Sometimes we just need to be alone.

4. “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst

“Lord God I come to you a sinner and I humbly repent of my sins. I believe Jesus is Lord … “

The best part of “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” is the prayer between the elder grandmother, Lamar and his friends after they succumb to anger from gun violence in their community. 

5. “Real

“I can see you fit the bill/Of living in a world that come with Plan B/Cause Plan A only can make another mistake/And you can’t see success coming from plan C/When it all breaks you, you still say you love me/And love them and love when you love her/You love so much, you love when love hurts … “

The point here: What does love have to do with anything or any plan when you don’t love yourself?

So, yes. Lamar calls Drake, or whomever, a “sensitive rapper,” whether or not he thinks of him as such. It’s par for the course in hip-hop battling to use clever strategies to paint the opponent as soft and weak. But think about it. Aren’t hip-hop’s greatest — Nas, Jay Z, Andre 3000, MC Lyte, Rakim — recognized as such because of the techniques they use to inject emotion and passion into their anecdotes?

Here’s the lesson: Hip-hop wouldn’t be hip-hop if it weren’t for cathartic spaces like cyphers where MCs can safely express their sensitive stories and sharpen their skills through constructive battling with one another.

Joycelyn A. Wilson is an assistant professor at Virginia Tech and a Hiphop Archive alumnus fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute, part of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.