So, I was writing another article, and I decided put it on pause, because I got “Control” on repeat. I know what you’re saying “Eric, you hate Big Sean. How could you love one of his songs?” And to that I say, you clearly missed the part where the title said “featuring Kendrick Lamar”. Now, I was planning on skipping this song – Kdot has done features, all of which have been solid, but generally not too notable. Plus, as someone who’s not too fond of BS, as Mr. Strawman pointed out earlier, I wasn’t too excited. Yes, Jay Electronica’s on it, but I don’t really care about him. He’s just not my thing.
But then I finally sat down and heard the song.
Holy fuck I’m never ever going to sleep on a Lamar feature ever again. He could be on a Solja Boy track, and I’ll sit through it. It could be 33 chapters of incoherent, outlandish storytelling, and I’ll sit through it all, just to hear Kendrick Lamar rap at the very end of it. I’ll shoot a bootlegger, that’s how good I feel about this shit.
Kendrick Lamar owns this track. Big Sean has an okay verse, starting off good, falling off, then getting average again. Like usual. Jay Electronica puts down a solid verse, like he always does, and it’s interesting and deep, and whatever. I don’t care. No one wants to hear about this shit, and I don’t want to talk about it.
I defy you to find a single rapper who’s hungrier than Kdot on this track. He starts off gentle, calmly explaining his verse’s thesis; that rappers today suck, and he’ll (figuratively) murder you with his verses. Ironically, he murdered Big Sean and Jay Electronica with the subsequent verse, and showed just how average Big Sean is to his fans.
Then his verse starts. My god does his verse start. Kendrick comes out swinging, aggressively growling out every line, which is impressive enough, until you realize that it’s over 3 straight minutes of that. That’s the longest verse on the track, and one of the longest I’ve ever heard. And to be able to keep that aggression and stick to the lyrical theme for that long is above reproach, particularly for a non-brag rap.
But just beyond his hungry delivery, beyond the great lyrics, is the theme. The message that he’s delivering with this verse. Most obviously is the call out on modern rap music. It’s been a line that Kdot has been towing for years, trying to get mainstream rap away from the weed, the bragging, the money, clothes, cars and hos, and now the club rapping about molly. He wants rappers to stop all that bullshit and start rapping about real things. Real issues facing both them, their community, and society as a whole. There are too many 2 Chainz’s and not enough Tupac’s, and Kendrick wants to turn that around.
Which brings him to his next point – calling out the pussy ass ho niggas, and claiming he’s the best. He leads off by comparing himself to Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem, and Andre 3000, saying his name should join the best rapper alive conversation. He also tells all of his contemporaries – "new niggas" like Drake, Joey Bada$$, Pusha T, etc. – to go fuck themselves if they think they can even try to enter that conversation. This is most simply stated by the Biggie influenced line, “What’s competition?” And while he may like the people he’s doing features with, he’s still going to try to beat them. Hell, he calls out Big Sean on his own track – a move that, as far as anyone can tell, is unprecedented. He also claims to not only be the King of West Coast Rap, but the King of New York too, which pissed off a lot of New York rappers. He puts out an open challenge to the entire industry, saying “come on, prove me wrong. Step up, put up 50 straight bars like I did, and do it better than me.”
Kendrick has finally arrived. This verse has stopped hip hop in its tracks, and made everyone sit back and think about this verse. Everyone is talking about it, throwing opinions out there and discussing the impact (definitely watch that link), writing and recording response tracks. As of this moment, Kendrick Lamar is at the top of the rap genre, and if you want to dethrone the King Kendrick, you can’t come at him with any weak verses. You can’t sit there and brag about the million dollar home you have, the Gucci you wear, the car you drive. You can’t talk about the drugs you do, the girls you bang, the albums you sell. You can’t even talk about the beats you get. Kendrick isn’t talking about any of that, and he doesn’t care about any of that. You want to come at him? Come at him with bars, delivery, lyrics. Come at him with substance. Elevate your game and do it better than him. And that’s his goal – to make the genre what it once was, and get that respect back. Get people to stop Instagramming and Tweeting, and starting writing and editing their lines. Make people look at rap as an art form that has substance. And I think he’ll succeed, for now at least.