Kenderick’s Fatal Declaration on Hip Hop: Commentary

k dotOn “Imaginary Player,” Jay Z’s song from his 1997 album “In My Lifetime Volume 1,”  he raps the line “It’s funny how one verse can **** up the game.” The earthquake that was Kendrick Lamar’s verse on Big Sean’s “Control” record that has come 16 years later would seem to prove him right.

Lamar is already a rap superstar and was already well on his way to becoming a hip hop legend. He was heralded as the savior of the West Coast rap music scene. He received Dr. Dre’s co-sign. He put out a critically acclaimed mixtape (Section 8.0), and a classic debut album (good kid, mA.A.d city). He headlined this year’s Hot 97 Summer Jam concert. He won Best New Artist and Best Male Hip Hop Artist at the 2013 BET Awards. Yet with all those accomplishments, Lamar still hadn’t pulled off his most impressive feat.

On August 13, something special happened- hip hop music, once again, became an entity that is based on skill, and more importantly, competition. Kendrick Lamar is single handedly responsible for that. With a fiery, 52 bar guest appearance on “Control”, Kendrick proclaimed that he was the King of New York. He also took it upon himself to decide who the next class of Great MC’s is, and in the same breath, declared lyrical warfare on all of them. This separated the Hip Hop world into two distinct categories. People who love Kendrick and think he’s on his way to being the G.O.A.T. And people who hate Kendrick and think he’s a loud mouth clown.

In the days following the release of “Control,” a tornado of diss songs were thrown at Kendrick from the likes of Joell Ortiz, Lupe Fiasco, Cassidy, Joe Budden, and B.O.B. That’s the short list. There have been over 25 responses in all. Brooklyn rapper, Papoose, put out a particularly scathing freestyle where he questions Kendrick’s sexuality and throws shots at his mother. Diddy launched his comical attack from Instagram, with a picture of himself and Jay-Z laughing, while a caption reads “And then Kendrick said, I’m the King of New York”.

Surprisingly, not a single one of the people who Kendrick name checks as those who sees as a competition have come back in song format. The silence could be for several reasons. Perhaps it’s because of Kendrick’s game changing verse, there is now a solidified collection of names and faces as the leaders of the new school.

The 90’s was 2Pac, Snoop, Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z, and DMX. The 00’s was 50 Cent, T.I., Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, and Gucci Mane. It seems that the 10’s will belong to J.Cole, Big KRIT, Wale, Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electronica, Tyler the Creator, and Mac Miller. Why? Because of their talent. Sort of. But mostly because King Kendrick decided and stated that these people were his contemporaries . Now all of their upcoming projects are really anticipated and their careers will be keenly watched. That might not be the case for some of them if they weren’t mentioned on “Control”. A good number of the disses from the rappers who have responded are admittedly more about hurt feelings that there names weren’t on the list, more so than any issues with Kendrick’s confidence. Or arrogance, depending on who you ask.

How did a newcomer from Compton, California, find the audacity to say he’s the King of New York? Where does he get his nerve, and does he really, truly believe he’s the King of New York? Why doesn’t he just settle for being the King of Cali?

Saying you’re the King of New York is like saying you’re the Bishop of Rome. Two extremely different jobs, but the same ideology applies. I’ll explain. When you are elected the Bishop of Rome, you are automatically the Pope of the Catholic Church. The Pope is a fancier title for the Bishop of Rome. They go hand in hand. This is because Rome is the Mecca of modern day Catholicism. So being the top figure there, gives you authority and leadership over everyone, everywhere else.

New York is the birthplace and mecca of hip hop. Yes, California has always been a major player in the genre, and Atlanta has dominated it for a decade. And the fans from there are still the hardest to impress and win over. Most importantly, only Biggie and Jay Z have been labeled King of New York before. Both have been almost universally recognized as the best of their time. So saying you are the King of New York is essentially saying “I’m the best, period. Out of every rapper, no matter where they’re from. I’m top dog in this era.”

Is Kendrick Lamar the King of New York? Is he at the forefront of a movement of artists who seem to be bringing rap music into a new Golden Age? Is he, point blank, the best rapper alive today? I mean, Jay-Z’s still around, right? Didn’t Lil Wayne seem to have this spot on lock not too long ago? Don’t some people think Drake is actually better?

Kendrick Lamar has raised so many questions over the course of the last two weeks. The disses, the debates, the praises, the animosity. It’s all been exactly what Hip Hop needed. Pressure is building for rappers to display actual talent and substance as opposed to swag and marketing gimmicks, and as Jay Z predicted, it’s all from one verse.

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