My take on the Kendrick Verse, and its importance in hip hop.
So anyone who knows me knows I love hip hop. I love the culture, I love the history of the culture, I love the music of the culture, and I love the mentality of the culture. That means a lot to me. See hip hop and rap gets confused a lot. A rapper and an MC gets confused a lot. I remember watching a documentary on BET one day called “The MC: Why We Do It”. It’s a cool documentary from back in 2005, and features MCs like Rakim, Pusha T, MC Lyte and Common talking about the culture. For me, one of the greatest of all time, KRS One, said…
“An MC is a representative of Hip hop Culture. A rapper is a representative of corporate interest. An MC can be a rapper, but a rapper will NEVER be an MC”.
That line always stuck with me. So over the last few years, I’ve had a debate going with my friends. They say Hip Hop is Dead, a phrase made famous by people like Nas and Lil Wayne over the last few years. I’ve said since about 2006, phrases like “Nah, it’s just evolving”, or “Nah, hip hop ain’t dead, it just moved down south”, or, “It’s coming back harder now”. Over the last few years, I’ve loved some of the music coming out.
Papoose and Saigon finally dropped their debut albums, both brilliant in my eyes. Lil Wayne set the world on fire with Tha Carter 2, delivered the amazing Tha Carter 3, and then, well, faded away. Rick Ross went hard, and made my head bang so hard, I got a migraine once! And frankly, I’ve loved some stupid party tracks from the likes of Waka Flocka Flame, MGK, French Montana, and 2Chainz. But let’s face it, those last four, aren’t hip hop at all. They’re rappers, and let me explain why.
“What makes you MC, is the expression of your soul”.
That’s another line said by KRS on that documentary. A rapper says lines because they rhyme, they sound good. I can’t argue that MGK’s Wild Boy, or Waka Flocka’s Hard In The Paint gets me going, I like the party atmosphere of the tracks, and it makes me jump around. But they’re songs about drinking, partying, girls, maybe even drugs, which we here at MusicEyz do not condone. Don’t do drugs kids, or I’ll come round and tell your parents. I’m serious, I will rat you out!
But anyway, are the lyrics in those songs an expression of the artist’s soul? I don’t think so. They’re tracks to put out, get some radio play, sell some records and gig tickets, and make some money. It works, and fair play to them, they’re playing the game, and doing well.
So who’s an MC is in today’s era. I’d say people like Mos Def (or Yasiin Bey as he’s now known), and one of my all-time favourites, Talib Kweli lead the way. They speak about what matters, issues facing people today, and you hear their lyrics and feel their pain. An MC makes you feel, and they’re truly expressing their soul. Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill made you feel, anything by Chuck D or KRS One makes you feel, Rakim the God makes me feel.
While mentioning to someone that I was writing this piece, they asked me 2 questions.
1. Who’s your favourite MC of all time? Easy, Jay-Z.
2. Based on what you’ve just said, is Jay-Z an MC? Uhhhh….
It’s a good point. Being about an MC is speaking the truth, the part of your soul that you want to share with everyone, not just to make money. My view, Jay-Z has gone through phases. He’s been an MC, someone who makes me move and feel, but he drops into rapper mode from time to time. Good example, his latest album, Magna Carta… Holy Grail. Was it an inspired piece of work, that made you feel and move, that spoke about the street, the experiences and used clever word play? Yes. But on the other hand, he liased the deal with Samsung, where they purchased 1,000,000 copies before it was out, netting him a tidy profit. Should he care about the sales if he’s truly MC?
No. When was the last time you heard Mos Def or KRS One going on about being platinum, drinking Aces & Spades, or rockin the Maybach? It’s not the essence of MC. But I feel Jay can switch it on if he needs. Interesting thought posed to me by my slap-head-mate.
So, anyway, back to where I was. Rakim, KRS, Chuck D, those are MCs, as they express their soul, and are a representative of Hip Hop culture, and that’s important.
So what is hip hop culture? We need to go back, back to NY in the 70s. It was graffiti. It was beat boxing. It was breaking. It was DJing, and it was MCing. And how did MCing, evolve, it wasn’t just saying your rhymes, it was ensuring your rhymes were better than everyone else’s. From Day 1, there was competitive edge to it. You wanted to be the best, and if you felt someone else was the best, you wanted to beat them (lyrically, not physically!). Battling was in the street, and over the years, evolved into the records we hear today. Battles from the likes of Jay-Z vs. Nas, LL Cool J vs. Canibus, hell, 50 Cent vs. EVERYONE, got us excited to hear was disses were going to come next.
For me, 2002/03 was an exciting time, as 50 & Eminem battled Ja Rule, Irv Gotti & Benzino. The mixtapes back there were killer!
And then it faded away, beef became meaningless, lyrical battling died, and all that remained was rap…..
Until Kendrick did a verse…
Yes, everyone’s heard it by now. Last week, Big Sean dropped a track called Control. The track was supposed to be off his upcoming album, but they couldn’t get clearance on some samples.
So instead of waiting, getting clearance, delaying the album and making people pay to hear it, he dropped it anyway. It featured two extremely talented lyricists, Jay Electronica (if you haven’t heard him, PLEASE go buy Exhibit C, an amazing single) and current MTV’s Hottest Rapper In The Game, Kendrick Lamar. And as we all know, Kendrick set the hip hop universe on fire, with lines such as:
I’m important like the Pope, I’m a Muslim on pork
I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the king of New York
King of the Coast, one hand, I juggle them both
I heard the barbershops be in great debates all the time
Bout who’s the best MC? Kendrick, Jigga and Nas
Eminem, Andre 3000, the rest of y’all
New niggas just new niggas, don’t get involved
And I ain’t rockin no more designer shit
White T’s and Nike Cortez, this is red Corvettes anonymous
I’m usually homeboys with the same niggas I’m rhymin’ with
But this is hip-hop and them niggas should know what time it is
And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale
Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake
Big Sean, Jay Electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller
I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you niggas
Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas
They don’t wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas
What is competition? I’m tryna raise the bar high
Who tryna jump and get it? You’re better off tryna skydive
Everyone’s talking about how he dissed New York, how he dissed other rappers. He’s coming after people like Drake, Pusha, even Big Sean whose track it is! My view, NO!!!! He’s not dissing anyone. This is simple in my eyes. He’s trying to get a reaction, he wants everyone to feel something. For the listener, it’s feeling like this is leading to something. For the other artists, those mentioned and those who aren’t, it’s a challenge to say I’m going to bring my A Game, every time. They better do the same, or risk getting left behind. And as far as the King of NY thing, he’s saying you don’t need to be from NY to be the King, but you need to get the city excited and listening to your stuff. And I’d put money on saying aside from Jay’s new album, everyone in NY is still listening to Kendrick’s album.
So what’s been the reaction? There’s be international news on this, everyone is all over it, and the world is excited. There’s been around 20 responses to the track since I’ve written this. Responses from rappers like Riff Raff, Astro, and D12’s Bizare and Lupe Fiasco are laughable at best. They haven’t got it. They’re either taking shots at Kendrick, or just rapping about rubbish. Responses from artists like Cassidy, Los, Joell Ortiz and Papoose starts to get to where it needs to be. They’re battling, throwing out brilliant metaphors and synonyms, and making me really prick up my ears and listen again. And they don’t need to diss Kendrick, or slag him off for dissing NY, etc. But they can say stuff that makes you think, feel, or even go “Aw damn, did he just say that!?”. That’s the essence, the core of the battle, the feeling that a punch line delivers.
Kendrick is yet to speak about the verse he dropped, but if he’s reading this, I’d say it was genius, well delivered, and even if not everyone has responded in the desired way, enough have to make me get excited again.
In fact, I’ve just text my friends the following words. “You were right, hip hop was dead. But Kendrick has brought it back to life, go listen to Control”.
By Dan Slater