Crown: Assessing Kendrick Lamar's "Control" Verse One Year Later

A year after its earth-shattering arrival, Kendrick Lamar's "Control" verse remains every bit as important.

Out of nowhere, Hip Hop’s stakes were raised during the late hours of August 12, 2013, when Big Sean’s “Control” surfaced. Produced by No I.D., the song was intended for the Detroit rapper’s sophomore album, Hall of Fame, but was discarded due to sample clearance issues. That remains the only ownership Big Sean has over the song. Though it also featured the always impressively perceptive Jay Electronica, “Control” was yet another lyrical showcase for Kendrick Lamar, as the Compton rapper issued a lyrical call to arms to the entire genre. More audacious than his “King of New York” claim was the decision to name 11 of his peers and the wish to “murder” them whenever he’s on the microphone. His bold, unexpected statements invigorated Hip Hop, triggering essays, response records and arguments on the way to instantly earning a spot on the timeline of Hip Hop’s landmark moments. A year after its earth-shattering arrival, his verse remains every bit as important.

“What is competition?” Lamar asks in the midst of his tirade. The inconvenient answer is, “What was largely absent from Hip Hop up until the emergence of “Control.’” At the time of its release, the climate had grown too convivial, similar to how the NBA has become disappointingly friendly. To some degree, this is the result of what is commonly referred to as a toxic A.A.U. culture featuring players who grow up playing with and against each other for years before competing at the highest level. This collaborative spirit has become common in Hip Hop as well, and though it’s resulted in good music, it’s also robbed the game of a competitive element. “Control” was jarring because it acted as a spark, much to the approval of fans.

The Importance Of Hip Hop’s Competitive History

 

31 Comments

  • Singular White Folk

    I could freestyle a better verse than Control with my tongue tied behind my back. But let's discuss the Pros & Cons. Pros: almost none, Cons: not swag enough, not gangsta enough, nothing rhymes, I didn't understand it, dumb voice, too cocky, A$AP (Rocky, the only one)is the King of NY, this little boy from LA did not learn how to jerk properly, & gkmc was a snooze I heard so few luxury brands mentioned I LITERALLY FELL ASLEAP. Peace

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  • PETE ROCK

    very well written, control was THE verse of that year

  • lojki

    this verse made me realize how INCREDIBLE gkmc was, a true masterpiece, probably the only classic album of our era

  • rattlesnake

    one of the best verses I have heard in 5 years, the visual lyricism on it is crazy

  • zeezeerax

    one of my favorit everses of all time

  • Venny

    I agree that the verse was super overrated; however, it succeeded in two ways: by getting people's attention and ruffling the feathers of nearly every rapper (obviously Drake). If you're a Drake fan, that's ok, but don't knock Kendricks talent because he can clearly out rap drake and he has his own style.

  • THE TRUTH ABOUT KENDRICKS VERSE

    its the most over-rated verse ever in hip-hop history. It sucked. Its not even quotable. It was loved by hip-hop geeks but that's it. Calling it a return to hiphop roots is absurd. "The bridge is over", "2nd Round Knockout", "Hit Em Up", "Nail in the Coffin" and "Ether" all came from real beef. There was no BS back-treading. Kendrick's verse was artificial. He was practically apologizing for the verse when he made. Drake called him out on it because the sentiment was not authentic - it wasn't real. It is done to get a rise. Kendrick is probably the most over-rated MC ever also. The article spends so much time trying to paint Drake as hyprocrite (Drake is easy target because he's Canadian and looks soft as cotton balls) but Kendrick is the biggest hyprocrite. He has already denied his King of New York comment. The verse was attempt to pump adrenaline and get attention. Its like when an aging broad gets botox. Cant believe people even fall for it. And Section 80 was a great album but GKMC is overrated. Its a good album but I never have a desire to listen to it. Its just not that enjoyable to listen to.

    • true datz

      Julian, name competition btw two rappers that didn't come from genuine beef. Pac/Biggie, Jay/Nas had real beef. Disappointed that all these so called hip hop scribes can't see what Control and the subsequent Cypher and antics from TDE really is: subliminal crap from Kendrick to create the illusion of a fake beef to elevate his profile. What real impact did this verse have besides creating media-driven Kendrick v Drake? Where's the elevated competition in rap you speak about? While his fans rant about King Kendrick (but don't support the features he's dropped all year) & downplay Drake's success, they ignore the fact that Kendrick sat back, let his fans go crazy with speculation only to try to backtrack any beef later. GTFOH with all this praise.

    • jazzboat

      gkmc is the best album of the last 10 years and I'm not even a fan

    • Julian Kimble

      I'm guessing you missed this sentence:"To the new generation of Hip Hop fans, its rare to see competition between artists without it being the direct result of beef." You know, among other things.

    • venny

      "Drake called him out on it because the sentiment was not authentic - it wasn't real." Drake portrays a lifestyle that he has never lived. So the article is right if it "paint Drake as hypocrite."

  • BP

    niggas be like "oh this verse wasn't shit".. fine tell me what verse was then.. your backpack shit from your iPod five people done listened to don't count.. I'll wait

  • Lil B

    I'M THE RAWEST RAPPER ALIVE. I'M THE FINEST BITCH OUT. I'M THE PRETTIEST BITCH. KENDRICK CAN'T OUTRAP ME!!! I'M THE RAWEST RAPPER EVER!!! I LOVE YOU. -Lil B

  • Anonymous

    real good verse all u niggaz thinking its overrated are just tryin to hip

  • Anonymous

    actually forgot all about this verse and song until i read this article. the verse is so overrated it has not change hip hop at all and i just laugh at those who break it down and love it as much as this hahaha!

  • Anonymous

    Honestly one of the most overrated verse of all time. I love Kendrick as an artist but right now he's being WAYY too over-hyped by people who prolly ain't listen to the Kendrick Lamar EP, Overly Dedicated and Section 80. HipHopDx & hip-hop fans needa let this go already. It's a great verse with name-dropping that's about it.

  • Anonymous

    Most overrated verse of all time.

  • Anonymous

    It accomplished nothing. No great epic battle came of it, no massive changing of the guard in terms of popular hip hop. It was a big deal on twitter for about a week, a bunch of struggle rappers hit him with bars he never responded to, people with careers that were profitable ignored it as irrelevant and by october nobody gave a fuck anymore. Shit was overrated anyway.

    • true datz

      More revisionist history. Even Kendrick tried to deny he was dissing Drake. Kendrick has never taken direct shots at Drake on wax & you wanted Drake to respond? Respond to what?

    • thot nigga

      cypher with two Hs tho....

    • Anonymous

      It didn't create an epic battle because no one was confident enough to step up. Drake shot subliminal disses all throughout NTWS, but when Kendrick replied on the BET chyper, it was curtains. Really, calling the verse average just shows how talented Kendrick really is.

    • Schama Noel

      Bro did you just say "people with careers ignored it"? Are you blind or just really stupid? You do know that during that month, EVERY single rapper, even the ones that weren't mentioned in the verse was questioned in interviews about that verse? He got praised by all th Hip Hop Goats, nas, eminem...and he remained relevant with that verse alone...Kendrick didn't drop an album last year,". I can tell you're really biased against Kendrick Lamar bruh, you gotta be delusional of you didn't think it impacted the culture, don't ever disrespect him like that again.

    • Anonymous

      All the "Control" verse proved was how pussy and noncompetitive Hip Hop is now. It was like the safest diss record of all time. He put in a fucking disclaimer during it, explaining how it wasn't personal and he was just trying to be competitive. It's like saying "fuck you, no offense." If you wanna be the best and be competitive, just fucking do it, don't tell everyone like you're some fucking narrastor.