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On Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Control’ Verse

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It was just one verse. One verse. It’s not on an album. It’s not on the radio. It’s not even his own song.
But, somehow, he caught everyone’s attention. He had the crumbling world of rap crying: All hail King Kendrick.
It was just one verse, yet it jumpstarted Twitter, blew up the internet and will continue to feed blogs for the rest of the year until he wins the Grammy for Album of the Year.
What Kendrick Lamar did in one verse has never been done before. He’s rebuilding the allure of rap while reincarnating the lore of Pac and Big. The amount of response verses and disses that immediately burst from the underground, home studios and labels alike is unmatchable.
The lucid passion and rising anger of a 26-year old whose only studio album just went platinum has drawn a quick response and the ire of vets Lupe Fiasco, Joell Ortiz and Joe Budden along with the younger generation of rap like Joey Bada$$ and B.o.B.
Who in history has drawn that sort of response, that sort of reaction? Not from individuals but from rap itself.
In his “Control” verse, Kendrick condemns the poppy trends that have led to the decay of rap with trifling Macklemorian verses and “Molly” club bangers from across the board.
What Kendrick did is pull the dying art over his back, and pull it up single-handedly while calling on his peers. Rap fans put too much focus on who he didn’t mention, when they are just missing the real point.
We’re tired of sitting around and watching rap fall. It’s time to do something about it and it starts with a ceremonial call to action. And here Kendrick does that.
He wants the new generation to step up, or let this art fall by the wayside. He doesn’t care if you’re his friend or if you share his song. He’s here to win.
It’s the ultimate competition, something along the majestic lines of Bird vs. Magic: the fiercest competition on the court and the best of friends off it.
That’s how rap used to be, coast-to-coast, lyric-to-hook. And that’s where Kendrick Lamar wants it to return. The way he did it: stunning. The culture he brought back to life: legendary.
All hail King Kendrick.

Contact Andrew Gastelum at
agastel1@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. 

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The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

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On Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Control’ Verse

Kevin Noonan | Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kendrick Lamar’s music, in general, sounds like bad cartoon characters rhyming over nails-on-a-chalkboard beats. All right, that might be a bit aggressive. He’s not, say, the Alanis Morrissette of hip-hop. “Swimming Pools” is a solid song and his verse on A$AP Rocky’s “F***ing Problems” is not only straight fire, it gave us the most creative combined usage of the sounds “Dih” and “Deh.” But as for the G.O.A.T. claims and the critics calling his latest album, “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” one of the greatest rap albums of all time, get out of my face. I’m not a music critic in the slightest, but to me, he’s hip-hop’s answer to Arcade Fire or Kings of Leon; somebody who sounds different enough to allow “true” genre fans to love him and lord their knowledge and fan hood of hip-hop over the masses of idiots who think music is “just for the radio” or “just to enjoy.”
All of which leads me to this discussion of his verse on “Control,” Big Sean’s latest attempt to get hype for his upcoming album. It’s a lackluster song overall, and won’t be released with his album due to apparent sampling issues.
Lamar’s verse is ostensibly a “shots fired” call-out of rappers he considers beneath him. First, he sets himself on the level of Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem and Andre 3000. He then proceeds to cast the ultimate hip-hop insult of “you’re not as good as me so don’t even try” upon a bunch of recent upstart rappers and Drake. Drake is the biggest name of the group, but is also clearly the least likely musician on the face of the earth to try and answer back to something like this.
Oh, and before he disses all of these rappers, he makes sure to say that he’s friends with all of them so that their feelings don’t get too hurt. I don’t know too much about hip-hop, but I don’t think friendly rivalries were always a big part of it.
It sounds aggressive, but on closer look it’s really pretty lukewarm. But because of his status as the Hipster King of Hip-Hop (that’s an insult, just fyi), this verse will likely draw grandiose and hyperbolic praise despite it’s thinly veiled averageness.
And somewhere, Tupac rolled over in his grave (or Puerto Rican hammock) in disgust.

Contact Kevin Noonan at
knoonan2@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.