The Game Changer: Kendrick Lamar

RnB/Hip Hop | Monday 19th August 2013 | Natasha


A week has passed since Kendrick Lamar sparked debate, woke up sleeping rappers and gave fans that feeling of passion that has been missed within the genre of hip-hop. It has been a while since we saw someone take a stand similar to this one and by doing so Lamar has given us flashbacks and feelings of nostalgia; reminding us of some of the reasons why many of us fell in love with hip-hop in the first place.

 Featuring on Big Sean’s track, ‘Control’ Lamar called out J. Cole, Big Krit, Wale, Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electronica, Tyler and Mac Miller. ‘What is competition? I’m trying to raise the bar high’ Lamar states, ‘he ain’t rockin no more designer sh*t’ arguably suggesting that he intends to take hip-hop back to its basics, stripping it of materialistic features and leaving listeners with hip-hop in its purest form – head bopping beats and insane bars. A time before gold chains and girls became the predominant occurrence in rap songs. This statement tells the world that Lamar doesn’t need those things to be the best at what he does.

Having recently wrote an article titled, ‘The Lyricist’ which looked back at some of hip-hops best verses and begged the question, is the lyricist still appreciated? It seems, with artists such as J. Cole, Wale, Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica dropping tracks that are filled with lyrical gems the rap game is evolving or perhaps, revisiting a past time. Lyrical talent is at the forefront of hip-hop tracks again; double entendres, a play on words and vivid metaphors are being recognised and appreciated in full force.

The verse is Lamar’s way of openly letting all of those mentioned to know that he is trying to musically murder them – something we know all good rappers want to do in the rap game, this has never been a secret. However I don’t think Lamar wrote the verse as a diss to any of the artists. In fact, as some have already mentioned, the verse if anything is a diss towards anyone that wasn’t mentioned. Kendrick Lamar sees these artists as his competition, if you weren’t mentioned then maybe you’re not on his radar.

A number of rappers have taken to the mic to respond to Lamar - some (New Yorkers) more outraged by his ‘king of New York’ line, others focusing on the ‘competition’ aspect of the rap game.
Joell Ortiz dropped ‘Outta Control’ and stated Lamar is not the king of New York but ‘the next thing on his Fork’. Ortiz also makes a couple of remarks that mock fashion rappers and claims ‘this is real hip-hop’. Ortiz’s fast response managed to address most of the topics that surrounded Lamar’s verse and with hundreds of thousands of YouTube views, everyone was listening.

The lyrical genius, Lupe Fiasco sends a powerful message to Lamar through ‘SLR 2’ ‘You will respect me […] I’ve done so much, no matter how far you go, you will reflect me’. Fiasco is a favoured lyricist to many so it no surprise a lot of the hype centred on this track. Fiasco lyrically flaunts the talent many are hungry for and reiterates that he is not to go unrecognised.

The rapper B.o.B reminds us that he sold 25 million singles worldwide in ‘How to Rap’ over an imitation of Lamar’s ‘Swimming Pools’ and rapper, Astro takes the opportunity to claim Lamar ‘kicked harder lines on the Miguel collaborations’ in his track ‘Kony’ – an ironic diss launched at Lamar which may have caused a couple of raised eyebrows and a few slight smirks.

One of the most surprising yet astonishing moments of this entire escapade is that in the mist of all the chaos, Jay Electronica’s incredible verse got missed by many. Some stopped after hearing Lamar’s verse to tweet their thoughts or discuss their opinions with others and some have only recently gone back to ‘Control’ to listen all the way through.

‘I’m silent as a rock, ‘cause I came from a rock. That’s why I came with a rock, then signed my name on the Roc. Draw a line around some earth, then put my name on the plot’ – Jay Electronica.

It’s ironic that everything Lamar indirectly questions in his verse is then answered by pure talent in Jay Electronica’s verse shortly after. The verse holds a lot of weight, and it’s only a matter of time before we are crowning Jay Electronica himself with some sort of lyrical title.

Many have argued that this verse was not Kendrick Lamar’s best verse and I would agree, but, and there is an undeniably huge ‘but’, I don’t think Lamar wrote the verse with the intention for it to be his best lyrical work lyrically. I would imagine it was written in order to make a point, and that is exactly what he has done. Lamar has woken up the rap game, he’s got people talking, and he’s reminded those rappers that might be getting a bit too comfortable with their radio play, money and fame that they are going to need to step up their game in order to meet great hip-hop expectations.
 We all know that if you are going to respond to a track like this you need to be able to deliver, so rappers now have to really think about what they are laying down on these responses. They aspire to make their verses better and louder than the last one in order to raise the bar even higher. And that my friends, is hip-hop.

Natasha Artwell