The true meaning of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Control’ verse

Erykah Badu, left, and Kendrick Lamar pose backstage at the BET Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Sunday, June 30, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Scott Kirkland/Invision/AP)
Erykah Badu, left, and Kendrick Lamar pose backstage at the BET Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Sunday, June 30, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Scott Kirkland/Invision/AP)


On Aug. 12, 2013, Big Sean dropped his newest single “Control” and sent major shock waves around the Hip-Hop world. The song features Jay Electronica and none other than Compton’s own Kendrick Lamar. Although Big Sean’s is credited with the rights to ‘Control,’ it was Kendrick’s verse that caused an uproar and began the Twitter hype of the day. Some people will tell you that Kendrick’s verse was a “diss” to several rappers. Others will inform you that his claim of being “the king of NYC” was a diss to all NYC rappers who have risen to stardom and gained respect throughout the Hip-Hop world. However, people have misunderstood the true meaning of what Kendrick was actually saying.

Of course, we all know that Kendrick is lyrically a beast on the mic. Throw any beat or any topic and watch him destroy everything. So it was no surprise that Kendrick dominated and annihilated his verse on ‘Control.’ However, the reason why his verse was the “best” was completely misunderstood by its listeners.  Kendrick’s verse wasn’t a diss at all. It was a statement and challenge to all the hottest MC’s out. The fact that Kendrick dropped names like Big Krit, J.Cole, and Pusha T, just to name a few, means that he recognizes them as brilliant MC’s and sees them as his competition. However, do not think that just because he sees them as competition that he doesn’t have a level of respect for his fellow MC’s. He says, “I’m usually homeboys with the same niggas I’m rhymin’ wit…. I got love for all of you niggas” meaning that he is cool with many of the people he mentioned.

As far as him naming rappers, the point of that was to establish to the world who Kendrick thinks his competitors are and to tell them that he is ready for anything they spit at him. Of course one element of rap is bragging about your own skills. However, in recent years, rap has turned more into concise and conscious rapping rather than bubblegum. So trying to claim the throne of hottest MC is nothing new and that is exactly what Kendrick is doing. Kendrick publicly said that he gunning for the throne of hottest MC. Honestly, there is no shame in making that statement when you have bars like Kendrick. One minor thing that the Hip-Hop world and listeners were looking for is a response from the MC’s he named. However, how can someone respond to something that wasn’t disrespectful?

Every MC, every true MC, has made statements were they say that they are the hottest in the game. If you pay attention to Drake’s song ‘Jodeci,’ which features J.Cole, then you’ll know that during J.Cole’s verse he says “Fuck your list you lame niggas and doubters I’m undoubtedly the hottest and that’s just me getting started.” Just like Kendrick, J.Cole stated that he is the hottest but the difference with the way he said it and the way Kendrick said it is that Cole outwardly said he was the hottest without referencing his adversaries. Kendrick named his and told them that he’s “trying to raise the bar high.”

As far as Kendrick stating that he is the “King of NYC,” that holds a more historical context. New York City can be credited with being the battlegrounds and pivotal point for Hip-Hop musicians. That competitive air floats all around NYC and Kendrick knows that if he wants that top spot and been seen as a true MC, although he already is, he is going to have to take over NYC.

In addition, applause is needed for those rappers who were name. None of them took it the wrong way, or at least they didn’t publicly state their dismay, and kept their cool when the world wanted them to hit back. However, the history of Hip-Hop shows that many great MC’s have lost their lives from misunderstood lyrics and  feeble beefs.  So is the hype about Kendrick’s lyrics what the Hip-Hop game has been missing? No because the mentality that Kendrick poses never left.


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