Kendrick Lamar Joins the GOAT Ranks: A Hip-Hop Legend Ascends

Kendrick Lamar

The concept of GOAT (Greatest of All Time) arguments is both reductive and definitive, short-sighted yet somehow all encompassing. In NBA terms, legacy games moments where a superstar either excels or falters when it matters most—serve as pivotal points for the conversation. Fair or not, these outcomes become reference points for how we view a player’s career. The Kendrick Lamar versus Drake battle wasn’t a playoff series, but Kendrick’s masterful victory feels like a legacy-defining game. But it’s more than that. By decisively surpassing the biggest rapper of his era, Kendrick has gone from merely aiming for Rap GOAT status to setting his own standards. The GOAT discussions can begin now.

By the time Kendrick said “motherfuck the big three,” he’d already achieved most of the milestones for an aspiring Rap GOAT. Kendrick combines impeccable rap skills with an actor-playwright’s flair for drama and Spike Lee’s directorial precision. His most impactful songs are cinematic yet relatable, and his cadences are as expansive as his emotions, which he conveys through raw songwriting that blends myth-making with humanity. Like commercial street rap legends before him, he can create songs for the charts and for your playlist, often combining elements of both.

With 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, he had the Dr. Dre endorsement and the iconic major label debut that doubles as an origin story. To Pimp a Butterfly was the requisite experimental album, except this one went platinum while earning universal acclaim. If there were doubts about his ability to make Hot 100 hits, he erased them with DAMN., a 2017 LP that saw him land his first-ever solo No. 1 single “HUMBLE.,” as well as another top-five single in “DNA.” In an unprecedented achievement, DAMN. went three-times platinum and became the first rap album to win the Pulitzer Prize. These are incredible accomplishments, but functionally, they’ve been done before. Jay-Z and Eminem have technically superb albums that sold well, and while it’s a significant marker of rap’s acceptance, the Pulitzer is ultimately a shinier version of “critical acclaim.” But by surpassing Drake, Kendrick just won the only championship that’s ever been played.

Kendrick Lamar’s journey to the top is a testament to his artistry and influence. He has transcended the typical milestones of success, establishing his own benchmark for greatness. Now, the GOAT talks can truly begin.