My Thoughts on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Control’ Verse When It First Came Out (That I Still Stand By Today)

By now, everybody you know who has a routing interest in hip-hop has probably clogged your Twitter feed and favorite music outlets with their thoughts on “Control,” the recently released single by Big Sean which has been made infamous thanks to a verse by Kendrick Lamar that calls out a slew of his hip-hop peers:

But before I get into this, I want to share the lyrics of this verse, just so we’re on the same page*:

I heard the barbershops be in great debates all the time
Bout who’s the best MC? Kendrick, Jigga and Nas
Eminem, Andre 3000, the rest of y’all
New niggas just new niggas, don’t get involved
And I ain’t rockin no more designer shit
White T’s and Nike Cortez, this is red Corvettes anonymous
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 Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake
Big Sean, Jay Electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller
I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you niggas
Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas
They don’t wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas
What is competition? I’m tryna raise the bar high
Who tryna jump and get it?

*Earlier in the verse, he also claims to be “king of New York,” which has people (and by people I mean New York residents like Papoose) a little peeved.

There have been countless opinions shared by sources both authoritative and not, and they have covered the entire spectrum of emotion and analyses. Fellow All Things Go’er and BYT ‘Guest Writer You Should Know’ Justin McCarthy saw this as a step back for hip-hop (wrong), Spin tried to claim it wasn’t that good a verse (also wrong), and infinite shortsighted people believed this to be an automatic-weaponed diss track (also also wrong), but a few gems like Jalen Rose/Dave Jacoby, Run The Jewels, and Ice T really understand what this verse is all about and, most importantly, why it’s so special.

Sure Kendrick elevates himself by comparing his skills to the likes of Jay-Z and Eminem’s, but if you’ll notice, this isn’t actually a diss track. If you take out the name-dropping middle section, you’ll realize that Kendrick has made his viewpoint and intentions clear:

“This is hip-hop…I’m tryna raise the bar high/who tryna jump and get it?”

He’s not saying that he fucked their bitches (those fat motherfuckers); he didn’t fuck with anyone’s soul like ether; hell, he didn’t even mention casual sysurp addictions. He simply stated that he believes that hip-hop is rooted in a sense of competition and that it’s time its stars started making each other better.

And this isn’t the ’90s; it’s not going to end with a shooting in Vegas. It’s going to end with a rise in the quality of the product that the hip-hop community is putting out.

Yes, some of the responses that came out immediately post-”Control” are pretty terrible, but some are quite nice and coming out from all woodworks of the hip-hop community. I mean, I got chills listening to Lupe Fiasco’s “SLR2″ response, which is a huge reminder that Lupe Fiasco, while inconsistent and unable to carry over his mixtapes’ magic to his albums, is still one of the smartest, most talented rappers out there (when you notice he mocks every other rapper’s style as he spits his bars, you’ll realize Lupe is playing chess while we’re all bitching about checkers).

Today’s hip-hop has become so friendly because it’s a better business decision to take all your hip-hop peers on tour with you — cough Drake coug — than to say a disparaging word about them (though Aubrey still tried to do that on “5AM In Toronto”). And this system is killing the overall product.

If hip-hop wants to not be swallowed whole by EDM and pop, it needs a renaissance, and I think that Kendrick thinks that a trick from the old golden days might just be the way to kickstart it. Outside of just spurring a sense of competition though, Kendrick may be giving hip-hop the jolt it needs by doing one thing:

Making hip-hop fun to talk about again!

Fuck! Sure there’s been some great hip-hop released recently (yet another chance for me to wave my Chance The Rapper flag), and it was mildly amusing to weigh the merits of good kid, m.A.A.d city against Long.Live.A$AP, but ultimately, not much has been all that satisfying. Now, everyone has an opinion they want to talk about, everyone is anxiously watching EVERY hip-hop artist, name-checked and not, to see their next move. It’s awesome! Even Phil Jackson is tweeting about this!

Through all the numerous cluttering articles and analyses and dissections, we’ve forgotten to take a step back and just appreciate that there are numerous cluttering articles and analyses and dissections. My wide-eyed hope is this snowballs into that hip-hop renaissance, but it will take the community as a whole, and especially those rappers called out, to embrace the idea.

Frankly, I couldn’t be more excited.


Originally posted on Brightest Young Things on August 21, 2013