"While Everyone Watched The Throne, Kendrick Lamar Sat In It And Called Himself King"
Once upon a time, hip hop wasn't so emotional. The art of emceeing was a sport where rappers challenged one another to one up every punchline and metaphor. It wasn't necessarily about who had the most money, the most women or the biggest movement. Things have changed over the years where the rap game has become a crowded room full of emcees attempting to salvage relationships in an effort to use an associate's star power like a trampoline to catapult them to a level above being just an internet rapper.
Back then, an emcee represented their city and would thumb their nose at anyone who tried to say slander their stomping grounds. These days, it becomes difficult to tell where an emcee is from. The distinctive sounds that bellowed from a particular region has now become muddled in a pool of surfers trying to ride the wave of what's hot. But what's not hot is that many rappers lost their passion and forgot that the rap game is a sport where competition can only help, not hinder. Getting your card pulled for being a fraud, wack or otherwise elicited a response on wax. If you couldn't hold your own in the booth, you would be buried by the public. These days, all it takes is for a rapper to hang on to a lie or do a bunch of interviews where they explain how they are better in every facet of the game, except the part that matters: rhyming.
The game forgot what it was until Kendrick Lamar sent a reminder that being the best isn't based on what list an internet site posts. His eyebrow raising verse on Big Sean's "Control" sent the message that #1 spot isn't handed out. The throne belongs to the king that is willing to take it. Lamar planted his flag and is daring any emcee to come for the crown that he claimed. Friends or foes, it doesn't matter. According to the Compton emcee, you can save all the bromance for the aftermath after the final buzzer sounds, but if you dare set foot on this court, protect your neck.
That verse was the shot of adrenaline the game needed. It was a reminder that to be the greatest rapper of all time, you actually have to be able to rap. It means that you can't put bars together arbitrarily and be saved by some exceptional production and a catchy hook. It doesn't matter how many strippers shake their ass to your song or who you collaborated with. It's about rapping.
It's been a long time since a rapper claimed to be a rapper rather than a hustler who just happens to rap. Kendrick Lamar is a rapper and his throwing down of the gauntlet has forced every emcee who has considered themselves as great to lock themselves into the studio and pen the illest verse they have ever written.
And don't think that Lamar's claim that: "I’m Makaveli’s offspring/ I’m the King of New York/ King of the coasts/ One hand, I juggle them both" was by accident. Aside from Jay-Z (who has become bigger than the game itself), you'll be hard pressed to find an emcee from the Mecca of Hip Hop that was universally recognized as the best in the game. MTV's "Hottest MC in the Game" list has been around since 2007 and the lack of New York representatives is alarming. Let's be clear, that list is far from the end all, be all, but it does provide a some insight on where NY stands. Nas and A$AP Rocky were the lone representatives on 2012's list; 2011 and 2010 featured Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z; 2009 had four NY emcees with Raekwon, Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Fabolous; 2008 saw Jay-Z and 50 Cent on the list and 2007 had Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Jim Jones.
Obviously, the rap game has evolved and stretched to multiple regions but the fact remains that New York has lost the hop in its step it once had. It was reminded of this when Snoop knocked over the towers over a decade ago and Kendrick Lamar did it again in 2013. It takes a bold emcee to shake a hornet's nest of talent, but Lamar was just that bold. And the reality is that if you believe that you're the best but afraid to proclaim it, what use are you to the game? Competition makes you keep your sword sharp because you never know who might come to take the throne.
In a game that has become stagnant when it comes to competition, Kendrick Lamar planted his flag and dared every emcee to come at him.
If you are offended by his proclamation, don't bitch and moan on social media, get your ass in the studio and one up him. Michael Jordan didn't ask for the crown, he took it. Muhammad Ali didn't beg for you to call him "The Greatest," he called himself that and backed up every word. If you got butt hurt by his statements, come and prove him wrong. That's what kept the game fresh and that's what Kendrick Lamar wants and that's exactly what the game needs.
May the best man (or woman) win.