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What’s the Best Song on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Section.80’?

Charles and Cole tackle Kendrick Lamar’s breakthrough 2011 album—the one that caught the critics’ and the industry’s attention

Getty Images/TDE/Ringer illustration

Welcome to this week’s episode of Last Song Standing, a new show from The Ringer and Dissect built on a simple premise: two hosts figuring out an artist’s greatest song by debating their way through every album in the artist’s discography. Season 1 will tackle one of the most significant artists working today: Kendrick Lamar.

Each week, Cole Cuchna (host of Dissect and Key Notes) and Charles Holmes (from The Ringer Music Show and The Midnight Boys on the Ringer-Verse feed) will tackle a different Kendrick project, nominating three songs and ultimately picking one apiece. Then, they’ll take their individual picks into a season finale battle royal, when they’ll have to determine which song should be crowned Kendrick Lamar’s best of all time.

On this week’s episode, we’re tackling the album that introduced Kendrick to the mainstream …


Release date: July 2, 2011
Billboard 200 peak: no. 113
RIAA: Gold
Singles: “HiiiPoWeR”

Before Kendrick Lamar, there was K.Dot, the alias that he donned as early as age 13. Producing mixtapes and features with his Black Hippy counterparts, K.Dot began to feel as if listeners didn’t really know him as an individual. “So I was like, ‘Y’know what? I want people to know who I am as a person and what I represent,” he told Hard Knock TV.

Insert Section.80, Kendrick’s debut studio album in 2011. It was the general music fans’ introduction to the mind of Kendrick Lamar and the complex topics that he continues to dwell on to this day. With his lyrical skills and jazz production, the album captures Kendrick right before his career is about to take off. From stewardess fantasies in “Hol’ Up” to drug dependency in “A.D.H.D,” what did Charles and Cole pick as the best song on the album?

What the critics said at the time: “Self-serious flaws and all, Section.80 still stands as a powerful document of a tremendously promising young guy figuring out his voice. Its best moments (“Rigamortis”, “HiiiPower”, “Kush & Corinthians”, “A.D.H.D.”) are simply dope as fuck, no qualifiers necessary.” — Pitchfork

“The stripped-down, jazzy production of the 2011 XXL Freshman’s in-house team compliments the duality of Kendrick’s honest raps, but it’s hard not to imagine how the Dr. Dre protégé will benefit when his sound expands in the not so distant future. It will surely be a bit grander and more accessible to the masses—though that doesn’t seem something the wordsmith is losing sleep over in the meantime.” — XXL Magazine

Trivia: “HiiiPoWer,” which was produced by J.Cole, went through 25 different versions.

How does the Last Song Standing team feel about Section.80?

What Charles says: “I think ‘Rigamortus’ is a song we can both agree, if you’re Kendrick fan, it just touches a part of your soul. I think it is something we don’t get a lot with Kendrick anymore, which is him unfettered by the need to sell you on this big concept or show you how great at storytelling he is. ‘Rigamortus’ is classic mixtape-era, “I’m just going to bowl you over with how good I am at rapping and how bad your favorite artists are.’”

What Cole says: “I think Section.80 really solidified his reputation. Overly Dedicated showed promise, but I don’t think Kendrick was very high on many people’s list [before Section.80].”

Hottest take from the episode: Charles and Cole agreed on all three of their nominations.

Possible choices for their lists: Will either of them choose the somber “Kush & Corinthians (His Pain)” featuring BJ The Chicago Kid? The jazz-infused “Rigamortus”? “Fuck Your Ethnicity”? Listen to find out.

Next week’s episode: Charles and Cole diverge from Kendrick’s mainline albums to talk about everything ranging from his features and loosies, his experimental work on untitled unmastered., and the Black Panther album. Check back next Thursday on the Dissect podcast feed, and until then, listen to the Last Song Standing companion playlist.

Hosts: Cole Cuchna and Charles Holmes
Producer: Justin Sayles
Production: Kevin Pooler
Theme Music: Devon Renaldo
Editorial assistance: Eduardo Ocampo