I can't decide what I am more surprised about: Kendrick's now instantly classic "Control" verse, or the firestorm of reactions and opinions it has generated. Producers 9th Wonder and Young Guru were videotaped recently giving their two cents on the matter, just like everyone else now has, although this was apparently filmed the night that it came out.
Guru provides a fresh perspective on the matter, one that I tend to agree with and one that concisely outlines why all these rappers trying to hit Kendrick back are wasting their time.
"The greatest point that a lot of people's missing," he elaborated, "[when discussing hot rappers like Kendrick] in a normal conversation, in a barbershop or something, they always hit you with, 'but yo, they ain't sold shit.' Now you've got somebody that's sold records, and is relevant in the culture, [who could] change the zeitgeist of the field, of what's going on right now."
More or less, what he's saying is, with this verse, Kendrick just made it known that he is gunning for the top spot - icon status. His "good kid, maad city" sold well and was hailed by most as great, by some as even a masterpiece. But history also shows us that one hot debut a legend does not make (just talk to Nas, among many others). Kendrick meant no disrespect to any of the people he called out. In fact, he's doing hip-hop in general a service, but its mainly to benefit his career trajectory.
Which is why another point Guru makes rings even truer.
"Let's say for instance, Jay, Nas, somebody get mad that he say [he is] the King of New York... if they even mention him sideways in a song, Kendrick wins. Cuz now, that means [he is] on this level."
In a sense, every freestyle and every article and blog post like this one is a victory in the same sense, albeit smaller. As we have seen in the last 48 hours, his verse earned him a whole lot of free press. These rappers, even the ones he actually called out, who are hitting back, are just eating out of his palm. Surely they know this, which is why it's all the more bewildering to me that it seems like people actually took offense to this, personally. I know this type of chest-pounding posturing is what hip-hop is all about - indeed, this whole ordeal is what hip-hop, in its true, raw competitive spirit, is all about - but honestly, these Joe Buddens, B.o.B.'s, Joell Ortiz and etc., are just making fools of themselves. If Kendrick scored 50 and the others 30 on this track, these guys are missing freethrows.
In any case, it's clear that this controversy over Kendrick's verse is good for hip-hop. It has re-ignited that competitive flame that has been so vital since the inception of the artform, one that has been noticably dim in the age of communication commodified. But what is just as inarguable is that Kendrick, with this one verse, has raised the bar for bars. He is not about to miss his chance to capitalize on this buzz, and I personally can't wait to hear what else the most exciting rapper of this decade so far has in store.
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"Stars open among the lilies. Are you not blinded by such expressionless sirens? This is the silence of astounded souls."
~Sylvia Plath, from Crossing the Water