I’m sure we all heard about our boy Kendrick Lamar dropping one of the hottest verses of the year on Big Sean’s track, “Control.” I’m vibing with this track for so many reasons: the tasteful sample, the diverse approaches from all three emcees, as well as the buzz that was created over K. Dot’s words–in less than a wee–from the hip hop universe are all reasons to get your blood pumping over this joint. It’s a special thing to witness a rapper name-drop so many other emcees, self-proclaim himself as the king of a city he isn’t even from, and the response isn’t hate, but rather other driven emcees simply answering his call to arms in friendly competition–but competition nonetheless.
It’s a common occurrence for people to divide themselves into two camps for hip hop: Old School and New School. For as long as I can remember, the “old school” fans of hip hop always loved to reminisce on the “Golden Age of Hip Hop”, when rappers could do no wrong and the only thing that mattered was the integrity and quality of the music; as opposed to now, when most of the hip hop that receives publicity is mediocre at best, and revolves more around profit than actual content. These opinions are justifiable, there are a lot of mediocre emcees out there dropping a lot of trash that’s getting undeserved attention, but it’s not like this is anything new. We have a tendency to over romanticize the past and pretend like old school hip hop was this ratchet-free zone where every emcee was immune to imperfections. The reality, however, was that mediocrity existed then as much as it does now, it’s just that hip hop has become so large, reaching so many spaces around the world, that it’s impossible to not notice how much sub-par content currently exists.
That’s what makes Kendrick’s verse so amazing: he’s reminding us that hip hop ain’t dead, because many of its inhabitants are still reaching for greatness, determined to be all they can be, while at the same time bringing others along for the ride. The music may keep changing forms, but it is as alive now as it was before, it’s just we sometimes forget what to keep our ears open to. The one word that comes to mind when I think of the music that has been released these last few years is “ambition.” So much innovation, creativity, and originality is coming from this new generation of artists, and Kendrick Lamar reminded us that this is the new norm. You listen to “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” and you can sense the dedication that was put into such a masterful work. The same goes for so many other artists attempting to test their limits, as well as what our own ears are willing to handle.
So for me, K. Dot’s verse isn’t anything revolutionary, because it’s what I’ve grown to expect from him and so many other emcees who have been attempting to push the bar to another level: a determination for excellence, and nothing less than.