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