2013 has been a big year for rap. We’ve been given Kanye’s Yeezus, Jay-Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail, Tyler the Creator’s Wolf, and Mac Miller’s Movies with the Sound Off. Later this month, Big Sean will be dropping his sophomore album, Hall of Fame. However, there’s one track that didn’t make the cut: Control, which features Jay Electronica and the current king of hip-hop, Kendrick Lamar (MTV dubbed him the ‘Hottest MC’ of 2012, and he seems to be all over the radio). Since its release yesterday on Big Sean’s Twitter page, Kendrick’s verse has sent tidal waves ripping through the hip-hop community, as he calls out some of the biggest names in rap, including the other two MCs on the song. The other victims: Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale, Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Tyler the Creator, and Mac Miller. “I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you n*ggas/Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you n*ggas,” raps Kendrick testily. In case you’re unfamiliar with hip-hop lingo, Kendrick isn’t literally trying to murder these people. That would just be illegal. He’s only trying to isolate himself from the competition; separate the men from the children, the legends from today’s hot fads. Kendrick wants to lure fans away from the stages of their favorite rappers and over to his own, until everyone lifts him up onto the same pedestal as his top five favorite MCs: Tupac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, and Eminem (solid list).
Kendrick Lamar has a very distinct flow. His style reminds me of free verse poetry—that is, poetry that doesn’t employ any sort of rhyme scheme (Tyler the Creator is also known to use this). He has a sound that’s more typical of an independent MC than a mainstream success; a unique way of speaking in a rhythm without ending each line in a perfect rhyme. And I believe it’s this fresh quality that has the hip-hop community—both critics and fans alike—praising this young, rags-to-riches story from Compton’s slums. Plus, it also helps to have rap legend Dr. Dre producing your album, as we’ve seen with The Game, 50 Cent, and, of course, Eminem.
Personally, I don’t understand why the hip-hop world is going crazy about Kendrick’s verse in Control. Maybe it’s because he’s calling out his own friends, which is something you don’t see too often. Regardless, boasting about one’s greatness has always been an integral part of hip-hop culture. MCs view rap as a competition and often refer to it as a “game,” as if there’s some grand prize to be won. And for some rappers, that prize comes in one word: respect. In the end, that’s all Kendrick really wants—and as you can see from the Twitter updates of his competition, he’s managed to gain just that.
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