I don’t really check for Kendrick Lamar specifically (his voice, or rather voices, are too bothersome for me to withstand for more than a feature), but I could not ignore the handful of people asking what my opinion was on his “Control” verse, a song I had yet to hear. Apparently, he’s charged with having “dismantled” the rap game with the following lines:
“I’m usually homeboys with the same ni**as I’m rhymin’ with/ But this is hip-hop and them ni**as should know what time it is. And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big K.R.I.T, 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 ni**as/ Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you ni**as/ They don’t wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you ni**as.”
I wish we lived in the era of hip-hop where something this inflammatory would set off some kind of MC renaissance, with rappers bringing a new passion to the craft and reinventing some wheels as opposed to the circle-jerk that is the modern rap scene, where rap’s stars do their best to come off diplomatic in hopes of snagging that feature from the rapper du jour. It will be interesting to see who keeps it friendly and who responds with some actual virulence. The friendly tweets have left much to be desired, so we’ll have to see what comes out in the booth.
That being said, I think of this as an act of boredom on Kendrick’s end, but commend his attempt at inspiring some kind of competitive spirit in other MCs, those he named and those he didn’t. One another note, claiming to be “king of New York” in another line of the song was simply eye-roll material. While hip-hop has long been home to extreme bravado and showboating, delusion and over-reaching has to be met with a tongue-in-cheek approach and if this is some attempt at sparking a coastal feud once again, wake me when it’s over. It seemed more like an attempt at shock value to me.
Though his skills are substantial, in my honest opinion, Kendrick is given a lot of credit for the simple fact that those on his level in terms of popularity aren’t anywhere near his skill level and there are still many people who only listen to what they’re spoonfed by urban radio and assume that handful of material represents “the game” as a whole. So when you’re listening to Drake, Nicki Minaj and post-prison Li’l Wayne 24/7, a Kendrick Lamar thrown into the mix is like the second coming of Christ to you. Unbeknownst to the poor souls who aren’t using all of the other means of music discovery at their disposal, there have always been alternatives to the mainstream filth that’s replicated daily and placed in rotation on urban radio and Kendrick Lamar actually has plenty of equals, many of whom simply don’t have the same mainstream presence that’s at his disposal via the Aftermath/Interscope push. To hip-hop novices, though, album sales have a direct relationship with talent and you’ll never convince them otherwise…thus you get Drake or Big Sean thrown into the same sentence as Kendrick in terms of formidable MCs…and the better-informed laugh heartily.
Kendrick Lamar is without question a talented MC…I just remain skeptical of the impact this verse will have on the game aside from a couple of weeks of buzz and then back to one big party. While he may not have done it for controversy, I think the spirit of competition in hip-hop is a little stale of late and rappers are too scared of burning bridges to really put any fire into their work when coming for another artist of equal talent’s throat. Perhaps I’m jaded, but we’ll see.