For the past month the Hip Hop universe has been abuzz. Emerging from a new brat pack of potential rap superstars 26 year old Kendrick Lamar (formerly known as K Dot) put the Rap world on notice that he is here to eviscerate the competition and his forebears simultaneously. Guest rapping with fellow wunderkinds Big Sean and Jay Electronica on the song ‘Control’ Lamar eclipsed his contemporaries with one of the most remarkable freestyle battle verses since the days of NAS and Jay-Z.
In his verse the Compton, CA raised Lamar goes straight for the #1 spot declaring himself “Makavelli’s offspring, I’m The King Of New York! King Of The Coasts/One Hand I Juggle Em Both!” Kendrick then goes on to clearly state that he intends to “murder” his Hip Hop competitors before going on to boldly declare:
“I heard barber shops debate all the time bout whose the best of all/Kendrick, Jigga, NAS, Eminem, Andre 3000, the rest of y’all/New niggas just new niggas/Don’t get involved!”
Kendrick then expands on his challenge, “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 Mills, ASAP, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electron, Tyler, Mac Miller/I got love for you all but I’m here to murder you niggas!”
Being a member of the Underground Rap community I had already caught wind of Kendrick Lamar before the ‘Control’ cameo. Kendrick had already carved out a loyal fan base and peoples’ champ status in the Los Angeles area. That said I had never heard so much as a single bar of Lamar’s on record or elsewhere before Twitter made ‘Control’ a viral hit.
Mainstream media outlets from TMZ to National Public Radio were reporting on the ripple effects that the battle verse was causing. P Diddy put out an Instagram meme featuring Puffy and Jay laughing court side at a Knicks game that mocked Lamar’s claim that he was the King Of New York. And then the inevitable rebuttal verses started pouring in.
When ‘Control’ first made waves I mused on Facebook: “Heard The #Kendrick Verse. Nice Freestyle. Not That Impressed With Most Of The Punchlines. Think It’s Hilarious This Is The Biggest News In Hip-Hop Right Now. I Also Think It’s Funny How Few Of The Other Rappers He Calls Out On There That I’ve Even Heard Of. #DrakeWasOnDegrassiHigh”
Within minutes my friend Jose’s brother Juan Emmanuel needled back “Fool. Its not about the verse. Kendrick has better verses. Its about him telling everyone to step it up and plus its a dis to those not mentioned not to those mentioned. Everyone he mentioned he is friends with.” While I will gladly accept in hindsight that Lamar was not attacking his acknowledged contemporaries my other point remains: The current state of Rap and Hip Hop is an apathetic mess.
On second listen Kendrick shows a great deal of animation and heart on ‘Control’ and I enjoy a number of the punches more than the first time. Hopefully Kendrick’s battle cry inspires commercial rap to grow some heart and get back to the Golden Era value of passion over pay check.
Yesterday an Eminem “Lose Control” leak surfaced as well. Em’s is clearly the best response so far. Now that Bunny Rabbit is back Rap can sleep easy. Hip Hop is alive and safe again. Well, sort of.
Tucker Booth writes for Locash Magazine , Hip-Hop Club and is a recording artist for Tantrum Niche Records. Tucker also hosts the Internet Radio Podcast ‘Tucker Booth Needs A Job’ Mondays 2-4 PM PST on www.killradio.org. Check out past podcasts/interviews at www.radio4all.net under ‘Tucker Booth’ in the podcast directory.