I’m usually homeboys with the same niggas I’m rhymin with
But this is hip hop and them niggas should know what time it is
And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale
Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake
Big Sean, Jay electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller
I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you niggas
Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas
They don’t wanna hear not one more noun or verb from u niggas
What is competition? I’m tryna raise the bar high
Who tryna jump and get it? You better off tryna skydive
Out the exit window of 5 G5’s with 5 grams
With your grandad as the pilot he drunk as fuck tryna land
With the hand full of arthritis and popping prosthetic leg
Bumpin Pac in the cockpit so the shit that pops in his head
Is an option of violence, someone heard the stewardess said
That your parachute is a latex condom hooked to a dread
After being subjected to an social media onslaught to the tune of billions of tweets about Kendrick’s so-called “epic” verse on Big Sean’s “Control,” I immediately assumed the role of dissenter. Foolishly, I remained the lone Elmer Fudd-looking old man on the bench doubting the constant chirping in my ear. Hypebeasts, in their very nature, glorify the shit out of something until it becomes shitty. Usually I’m on the ball when it comes to new music, but I remained a grumpy outcast until I decided to finally listen. Alas, I was wrong for doubting the internet. If you have two functioning ears, there is no room for subjective opinion here; Kendrick Lamar spit one of the greatest verses of all time in 2013.
There are just too many ideological complexities and stunning metaphors abounding in Kendrick’s verse to do it proper justice in a quick blog post, but the most stunning thing of all about Kendrick’s verse is what he says during his verse’s finale, which I use as a euphemism here to stand in the place of a more accurate description like the slaughtering you bestow on your opponent in the TKO stage during those drunken nights playing Mortal Combat. I’m not sure if Kendrick heard the thundering call-to-arms while reciting his verse, but Kendrick literally finished them.
Clocking in at well over the seven minute mark, “Control” is somewhat of a surprising release from Big Sean for a number of reasons. First, the song is not about controlling… yo hoes, or even letting them talk to you crazy. Second, the structural DNA of the song retains very little traces of the tracks Sean has infiltrated the airwaves with in the past, which were mainly geared toward money, chardonnay, and ass ass ass (repeat 20x). However, Sean’s Detroit mixtape reminded early devotees that the G.O.O.D. music MC still retained a knack for lyricism, and could even get damn near conscious and meaningful when he wanted to. Providing the opening for “Control,” Sean’s verse is impressive on its own, and if it wasn’t for that holy-fuck of a verse by Kendrick, folks would have been busily stuffing their Twitter feeds with delusional comparisons to Jay-Z just off the strength of his lyrics. More than anything though, Sean’s gift is ironically his control, no pun intended. The rapper has some of the most versatile bag of tricks when it comes to flow, and he is able to (pause) eject it at will.
But as you well know by now, Big Sean and Jay Electronica impressive wordplay were drowned out by the hype surrounding Kendrick’s. In a world predating the Ebola crisis, hospitals across the nation scrambled to find answers to curb the recent pandemic of feelings. Many were appalled that Kendrick would dare disrupt this new pussy-laden era of good feelings by name-dropping emcees in the hopes that competition would be restored once again. No baby mama jokes. No that’s why I fucked you bitch you fat motherfuckers. Just a call to arms from some of the emcees elite talent to step up to the plate.
In the last decade, there has never been a more polarizing singular recording.
If you don’t believe me (aka you’ve never experienced social media) type in “_______ responds to Kendrick Lamar’s verse on Youtube. Unlike other genres, Hip-hop has long been a battle for supremacy. It’s rare to envision a world where Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones and Roger Daltrey of The Who go toe-to-toe about who really dominates the arena of prancing on stage while donning cock-shrinking pants. When artists of other genres face off, it typically revolves around personal issues rather than a clairvoyant claim that said artist in question will be forever regarded as the best to ever do it. Taylor Swift has made a career by “controlling” a lot of her ex-boyfriends, but these suicide-inducing pop songs are the result of puppy lovey-dovey emotional strife. A better example is The Beatles. In the aftermath of the band’s bitter breakup in 1970, Paul McCartney and John Lennon engaged in a subliminal war on wax.
McCartney (doing his best Lennon impersonation) and The Wings released “Let Me Roll It” in response.
(As much as I’d love to think Paul McCartney is sitting somewhere on a plush sofa chair reading Allhiphop as part of his regular reading material, the thought that he would probably sue for this post scares the shit out of me. No disrespect Paul, my bank account is far from yours. Please leave me and crumbs to be).
This competitive drive to wear a metaphorical crown is just one of many unique features that make the genre so captivating. As Kendrick alludes to, competition makes for better music. Take some of the most famous battles in hip-hop history. Nas and Jay-Z. Before Nas got called out by Jay, he was making horrendous songs with Ginuwine. He answered doubters by released “Ether,” and ultimately Stillmatic, two of the greatest additions to the genre. When Ja and 50 went at it, the world was saved from more videos of a wanna-be 2pac-esque thug dressing up as John Travolta in Grease.
In short, competition is a good thing. You may not be the biggest Kendrick fan, but remember that at one point the following song was actually a real thing and not a figment of your imagination. Let us pray that it never happens again.
Of course, competition must be regulated on wax and wax only. We all saw what happened when 2pac and Biggie went at it. But rap is sport, and any emcee should believe that they are the best emcee and should be able to prove as much. Around 2005, when barbershop talk strictly revolved around T.I. and Lil Wayne in regards to the true best rapper alive, T.I. released “I’m Talkin’ To You,” a not so subtle jab at Wayne. Nothing ever came of the diss, but it just goes to show that once rappers reach a certain plateau, competition is almost inevitable.
Kendrick has firmly established himself as a rapper possessed by demons. With only a few years of having mainstream pay attention to him, he has let it be known since day one that he plans to be regarded as the greatest rapper alive when all is said and done. The remix to “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” is a perfect example of Kendrick’s unquenchable tenacity. If one were to stop the recording at the end of Jay’s verse, what you would have is a rookie emcee meticulously putting his heart and soul into 16 bars, only for the veteran to disseminate him with ease and an emoji yawn to boot. Kendrick stated on record that he added the third verse as not to be put to shame. The artwork displayed on the following video courtesy of Youtube is a pictorial representation of the recording. A young Kobe Bryant (Kendrick) not only out to beat his idol (Jay-Z), but to learn his secrets as well.
Following in the wake of the infamous verse, the most offended party was Drake, who even in his “diss me you won’t get a response for it” philosophy took plenty of subliminal shots at the Compton native, such as on the “The Language” from Nothing Was The Same. Although he remained calm in interviews, he continued to release a slew of subliminal attacks. Many in the hip-hop community prayed for a Drake v. Kendrick show down a la Nas and Jay-Z. Anyone who is able to look past the corny real life antics of Drake (a lint roller bro?) has to admit that he can get busy on the mic when he is not singing about strippers he unsuccessfully tried to engage in a stable relationship. When Common decided out of the blue to diss Drake for making what he termed “soft” material on the diss track “Sweet,” Drake surprisingly won the battle in just a few bars on Rick Ross’ “Stay Schemin.”
“I am the kid with the motor mouth
I am the one you should worry about
I don’t know who you’re referring to, who is this nigga you heard about?
Someone just talking that bullshit, man, someone just gave you the run-around”
Not to be outdone, Kendrick responded during his 2013 Cypher set at the BET Awards.
“And nothin been the same
Since they dropped “Control”
And tucked a sensitive rapper back in his pajama clothes”
Although always underrated by “rap purists” for his lyrical abilities, Drake has raised the stakes even further in 2014 such as “Draft Day,” “We Made It,” and “0 To 100.” While we may never see a battle between the two, it’s great to know that in the ashes of the laffy-taffy-chicken-noodle-soup-with-a-soda-on-the-side Apocalypse, there are a plethora of talented emcees not satisfied with just collecting checks. Speaking of other emcees, Meek Mill went on an all-out assault on Kendrick, shouting obscenities at Kendrick as if both his eardrums had been destroyed by too much Dre Beats usage. In all seriousness, Mill’s “Ooh Kill Em” is one of his best recordings to date, and I imagine is exactly what Kendrick envisioned when he spit the now infamous verse.
In 2010, the entire Hip-Hop community was paying attention to J. Cole after a series of classic mixtapes. When his debut album arrived however, fans expecting The Warm Up or Friday Night Lights still vividly remember the day they copped Sideline Story and thought they had mistakenly purchased J. Holiday’s “Bed” in eager anticipation of the next Illmatic. Cole raised the stakes with his sophomore effort Born Sinner, even apologizing to Nas for his past misfiring, but at the end of the day the album still trailed in comparison to the classic mixtapes already on his resume. Often times following utter brilliance with dull, musical Itis, Cole has become for many the most frustrating artist to ever grace a XXL Freshman cover (Charles Hamilton doesn’t count). But Cole’s latest release is his strongest album to date, and as crazy as it may sound, I believe the buzz surrounding “Control” finally persuaded the Roc Nation emcee to tap into his true potential. He even references the song on “January 28th,” urging his rap brothers to keep the spirit of competition friendly but not let it spoil their relationships.
“Like the great Rakim, when I make my notes
You niggas might be L or you might be Kane
Or you might be Slick Rick with 19 chains
Or you might be Drizzy Drake or Kendrick Lamar
But check your birth date nigga, you ain’t the God”
Big KRIT released one of the greatest tracks of the 2014 with “Mt. Olympus,” mainly centered around the buzz of “Control.” As he sees it, the whole battle for rap supremacy is futile given that the ultimate deciding factor (radio executives) when it comes to solving the debate is out of the emcee’s hands. He has a strong argument, bulletproof I might say. Until one person can explain to me why Young THUG (the worst rapper of all time, objectively speaking) is a constant radio presence and while the likes of KRIT and Freddie Gibbs are shoveled under the mud, then “Mt. Olympus” is pure gospel in more ways than one.
There are too many responses to “Control” to post them all here, and quite frankly, most of them are pretty atrocious. Troy Ave, a rapper who wants to be 50 Cent sooo bad that he is beginning to believe his own hype even weighed in with his own diss. No disrespect to New York, but if you are from another region, please pray for the folks on the East Coast. They are entirely shell-shocked that the birthplace of Nas, Jay, Biggie, 2pac, The Wu, Tribe, Mobb Deep and hundreds of other legends has dipped into a cesspool of mediocre emcees that get hyped incessantly for no other reason than the fact that they are from New York in a desperate attempt to restore legitimacy (Papoose, French Montana, etc.)
Editor’s Note: I love New York music, but it doesn’t take a third eye to realize Troy Ave is decent at best. Hang your hopes on Lloyd Banks, Action Bronson, and Joey Bada$$. Most importantly, don’t Trinidad James me and force me to lose my deal with Allhiphop. The last thing I need is a Lord Jamar (speaking of irrelevancy) speaking to Vlad TV about me. To quote a New York O.G., I call a spade a spade, it just is what it is.
We live in a day and age where hip-hop is so lovey-dovey that rappers tend to shy away from dissing, and instead embrace a nauseating “we’re all in the same gang” philosophy. Kendrick echoed the thoughts of many fans (like me) who remember fondly the days when rappers had no qualms about stating their intentions to eliminate their competition. To be clear, Kendrick isn’t dissing anyone, but he is reinforcing the idea that unlike many genres, hip-hop is a battle when viewed in its purist form. Artists can be friends, and even new artists can be friends (despite what DJ Khaled will have you believe) but at the end of the day rap is a masculine sport, and the idea is to destroy your opponent. Drake’s “diss me and you’ll never get a response for it” is completely anti-competition, and Sun Tzu would be horrified. We can only assume that Kendrick will put the fire in the asses of some of these so-called rappers…pause. But like Kendrick says, this is hip-hop and these rappers should know what time it is.
Ultimately, Kendrick’s verse was a rare request. The battle for lyrical supremacy has always been a staple of Hip-Hop, which is why battle raps are such a popular aspect of the culture. But Kendrick not only wants to be the best rapper, he wants to be the best at putting the entire package together. It’s one thing to be a great rapper– it’s an entirely different thing to be a great artist who consistently releases brilliant material. I am one of those crazy folks like Charlamagne Tha God that think that a Golden Age Part 2 is among us, and with Kendrick’s rallying cry, we are starting to witness great emcees exhaust their creative reserves in an effort to reach the top of the genre’s pantheon.
The old heads who grew up listening to Rakim, Big L, and EPMD and probably never experienced the joy of the club goin’ up on a Tuesday are quick to point out the flaws in today’s Hip-hop landscape. I’ll freely admit that Young Thug is the worst rapper ever. However, we are blessed to have a plethora of supremely talented emcees who have what it takes to birth a golden age reminiscent of the 90’s era. In addition to the emcees Kendrick name-dropped, there’s Curren$y, Stalley, Young Roddy, Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, Freddie Gibbs, Kevin Gates, Coz, Logic, and a host of veteran emcees who are still releasing incredible music. Whatever you want to call it, Kendrick is largely responsible for bringing the best out of these rappers. Over a year later, people are still talking about “Control.” Who knows, maybe even Dre will be inspired to release Detox after 400 years of broken promises.