While Kendrick Lamar came out on top in a category jam-packed with elite wordsmiths such as Denzel Curry, Freddie Gibbs, JID, Joey Bada$$, Nas and Pusha T, the Pulitzer Prize-winning spitter’s bars were simply undeniable in the past year, especially on the strength of his critically acclaimed 2022 album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.
Kendrick’s experimental double LP finds the newly minted Lyricist of the Year painting vivid audio images of personal triumphs and tribulations as well as important social issues through the art of rhyme across 18 tracks including “N95” and “The Heart Part 5.” Kung Fu Kenny’s fifth studio album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and sold a hefty 295,000 units in its first week. Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers was also lauded as one of the best hip-hop projects of 2022.
Kendrick Lamar was voted in as Lyricist of the Year by the illustrious XXL Awards Board, which is not only comprised of the hip-hop industry’s heaviest hitters behind the scenes like Chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records Craig Kallman, and Cofounder and COO of Quality Control Music Dr. Kevin “Coach K” Lee, but also includes all-time great lyricists in their own right such as Method Man, Bun B and Eminem.
Last year, J. Cole was awarded the honor of Lyricist of the Year for the XXL Awards in 2022. The North Carolina-bred rhymer’s 2021 album The Off-Season served as the catalyst for Cole to take home the crown. The 12-track LP landed at the very top of the Billboard 200 albums chart and produced platinum-certified singles like “My Life” featuring 21 Savage and Morray and “Pride is the Devil” with Lil Baby. The Off-Season proved that even after more than a decade at the top of the rap game, J. Cole has more than enough left in the tank when it comes to bars.
Other categories voted on by the XXL Awards Board in 2023 include Song of the Year, Best New Artist of the Year and Hip-Hop Humanitarian of the Year.