Kendrick Lamar Redefines The Art Of War

Kendrick Lamar's 'The Pop Out: Ken And Friends' concert in Los Angeles was a seminal moment for West Coast Hip-Hop...

If Sun Tzu wrote the art of War in the 5th century BC, Kendrick Lamar created the soundtrack in 2024. From his guest verse on Future and Metro Boomin’s ‘Like That’ single, followed by ‘Euphoria’, ‘6:16 in LA’, and ‘Meet The Grahams’, to the finisher move ‘Not Like Us’. K Dot has redefined the art of the rap battle. 

‘Not Like us’ is the ultimate diss track. A masterclass in disrespect. A genre-defining, perfectly-crafted hit record. It taps into DJ Mustard’s renowned signature West coast sound. It’s reminiscent of ‘Hit Em Up’, 2pac’s timeless diss track that shook the world, but it’s layered with Kendrick Lamar’s elite lyricism. 

Every bar and chorus on ‘Not Like Us’ is a strategic disrespect. With surgical precision Kendrick dissected Drake’s existence, affiliations, and purpose. He detailed Drake’s flaws, imperfections and validity, then drew a comparison with America’s historic troubled race legacy.

I don’t know any other artist that could have generated the necessary research and analysis that went into the construction of this genre-defining rap anthem. A rap banger that has influenced popular culture across the world.

If ‘Not Like Us’ was the final boss move of a video game. Dr Dre voicing the intro during Kendrick’s recent ‘Pop Out’ concert was the extended gameplay. The inconceivable, unimaginable post game show that signified much more than a mere guest performance. 

After Kendrick and Dre performed West Coast classics such as ‘California Love’ and ‘Still Dre’. Dr Dre asked for a moment of silence and said “Pssst… I see dead people”. A jawdropping scene that raised the roof of Inglewood’s sold out 18,000 cap Kia Forum venue. It was a historic cultural joining the dots moment. A physical triple entendre that was a reference to Kendrick’s ‘Sixth Sense’ metaphor on the critically acclaimed ‘Euphoria’ Drake diss. It could be seen as homage to Dre’s Aftermath artist Game. A rapper who said a similar line on his ‘One Blood’ single back in 2006. It happened to be Game’s victory lap moment after surviving a well documented Rap beef with 50 Cent. Internet rumours and fan speculation suggest it was a subliminal diss towards Game for openly declaring his loyalty to Drake, and his recent disparaging comments about against Dr Dre.

But there was a deeper historical parallel to Dr Dre’s presence at Kendrick’s ‘Pop Out’ concert. Twelve years ago a classic hip-hop moment took place live onstage at the House of Blues LA, where Snoop Dogg told Kendrick Lamar “You’ve got the torch now, and you better run with it”.

Dr Dre voicing the intro to ‘Not Like Us’ was a similar defining moment. Although this time it was between mentor and student. A pivotal graduation ceremony streamed live on stage across the world via Twitch and Amazon.

As the crowd roared to the sound of his ultimate diss track ‘Not Like Us’. Dr Dre a living grand master of the culture, one of the architects of 50 years of hip-hop passed the torch to Kendrick Lamar. The newly-crowned battle tested King of the West Coast.

Words: DJ Semtex

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