Best Rapper (2013)

Kendrick Lamar

Upon the release last year of his major-label debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, critics agreed that Compton-bred rapper Kendrick Lamar's work belonged in the pantheon of classic hip-hop albums. A year later, after he'd become internationally popular and released one of the best verses in recent memory on "Control," Lamar's complex and emotionally fraught narratives still resonate. Tracks like his somber and (ironically) sobering single "Swimming Pools (Drank)" seemed antithetical to L.A. radio yet somehow dominated it, alongside tracks like A$AP Rocky's hedonistic and carefree "Fuckin' Problems," on which Lamar also appears. It seems that no matter what kind of song he appears on, he will make you evaluate yourself and the world around you. kendricklamar.com. —Max Bell