Kendrick Lamar Albums Ranked Worst To Best

Breaking down some of Lamar’s wildly influential discography


Julio Enriquez/Wikimedia Commons

Kendrick is considered one of the most influential hip hop artists of his generation.

Tony Peoples, Reporter

‘Untitled Unmastered’ (2016)

6. ‘Untitled Unmastered’ 

Untitled Unmastered is a solid one from Lamar. This compilation album contains unreleased demos from To Pimp A Butterfly that incorporate genres like jazz, hip hop and funk. Even though the song’s titles are ambiguous (every song is titled 01, 02, etc.), each track on the album contains something extremely unique.

As an overall body of work, Untitled Unmastered lacks some replay value compared to the projects that follow, but what Untitled Unmastered showed is that even Kendrick’s leftovers are better than some artists’ best work.

‘Section .80’ (2011)

5. ‘Section .80’

Lamar’s debut, released in 2011, Section .80 proves that Lamar has always been a master of his craft. From his very first album, Lamar was discussing hard-hitting themes like the 1980s crack epidemic, drug abuse and poverty. His rapping ability peaks on songs like “Rigamortis,” flowing impeccably over jazzy production. Closing track “HiiiPower” remains one of Kendrick’s best songs, summarising what he is all about; a voice for the new generation.

Even on his first album, Lamar was ready to paint a portrait of his city and highlight the strife that he saw growing up in his community.

‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ (2022)

4. ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’

Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers follows Kendrick’s journey through therapy, finding the rapper at his most sincere and controversial. While his most personal record, it is also his most radio-friendly record, offering  tracks like “Die Hard” and “Purple Hearts,” and casual rap hits in “N95” and “Saviour.” These songs debunk the myth that Kendrick is just a conscious rapper making conscious albums.

On “Savior” he explores the topic of celebrities and how public figures are not saviors. Referring to rappers like J. Cole and Future as well as basketball star LeBron James, Lamar is reminding fans that even though influential figures help shape and define culture, true power comes from within and it is not always wise to put your faith in anyone but yourself. Another great project from Lamar.

‘DAMN.’ (2017)

3. ‘DAMN.’

The album finds Lamar talking himself through various moral dilemmas that function as the titles to the tracks. The song “LOYALTY” featuring Rihanna explores the trials and tribulations of being in a faithful relationship. Continuing to set the bar to a height where none of his competitors were even close to reaching in 2017 with another concept album, DAMN dissects human emotions to create polished songs that maintain Lamar’s identity, but also appeal to a wider audience. The leading single off of the album, “Humble,” earned the rapper his first number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. With gorgeous production and many hits, this project solidified Kendrick again as a top tier rapper in the game.

‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ (2012)

2. ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’

The highly-anticipated Good Kid, M.A.A.D City had instant impact when it was released in October 2012. Cutting-edge and complex, few hip hop albums can match up to its cinematic status. This album is one that propelled Lamar to international acclaim.

Lyrically, the album delves into Lamar’s upbringing in Compton; songs like “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” find Lamar playing with different narrators from Compton to help build a complex story of crime and strife in his community. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City succeeds in all aspects of Kendrick’s artistry, from the storytelling, production, lyricism and conceptual ambitions. Kendrick tells a tale that refuses to get old no matter how many times you listen. It is an undisputed classic that has permanently cemented itself in hip hop history.

‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ (2015)

1. ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’

To Pimp A Butterfly is like a novel; dense in detail, complexity and cross-track correlations. It doubles down on Kendrick’s application of concept albums, packing in an abundance of content and bold production that draws from jazz, G-funk, neo soul and spoken word.

Kendrick weaves in topics of fame, religion, depression, White America, Black heritage and Black excellence. “How Much a Dollar Cost” is a tale of Biblical karma. “Institutionalized” explores the captivity of ones toxic environment. The gap between it and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is smaller than many would admit. Yet the creativity, themes and Kendrick’s performances all leads to tracks that have a slight edge to its predecessor, a musical ambition that hasn’t been challenged since. For many, it is included in the greatest rap albums of all time.