There's a lot for a rapper to consider when penning a verse. You have to be creative and lyrically sound, while still being impactful and relatable. This year, hip-hop fans have gotten a number of powerful verses from the likes of Drake ("Versace" remix), Eminem ("Rap God"), Pusha T ("Numbers on the Board") and — f you let him tell it — Kanye West ("New Slaves"). Still, there was no single rap verse more impactful, important or better than Kendrick Lamar's offering on Big Sean's "Control."
Granted, K-Dot's "Control" bars didn't have the catchiness of Drake's scene-stealing 16 on Migos' "Versace." It wasn't a radio hit or a smash in the clubs, but Lamar's rhyme hit like an earthquake, and the game is still feeling the aftershocks.
Ever since "Control," it seems that rappers are more focused on their bars and on Wednesday's (August 18) "RapFix Live," MTV News will be celebrating the year in rhyme with our special All-Cypher episode featuring rhymes from more than 20 MCs including Pro Era, Troy Ave and Vado.
Nobody knew what to expect on August 12 when the opening keys of No I.D.'s track gave way to Sean's first verse. It was a respectable rhyme display that was quickly eclipsed by Kendrick's snarl, which dropped three-minutes into the song. "Tell Flex to drop a bomb on this sh--," he raps after his poetic bridge.
First, the Compton MC offended New York rappers, suggesting that he was the king of the Big Apple and then called out 11 of the game's most notable MCs by name. "I'm usually homeboys with the same n----s I'm rhymin with/ But this is hip-hop and them n----s should know what time it is/ And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale/ Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake/ Big Sean, Jay Electron', Tyler, Mac Miller/ I got love for you all but I'm tryna murder you n----s/ Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you n----s/ They don't wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you n---as," he barks.
Hip-hop fans collectively exhibited a simultaneous gasp and jaw-drop. Within a matter of days an army of rappers including Joell Ortiz, Lupe Fiasco, B.o.B., Papoose, Los, Cassidy, Ransom, Riff Raff, Fred the Godson, Skyzoo and Astro all responded with a record.
MCs that Lamar actually addressed by name like Meek Mill, Drake and J. Cole, would later respond. On September 6 Meek dropped "Ooh Kill Em" and Drake two weeks later on "The Language" from his Nothing was the Same LP. "F--- any n---a that's talkin' that sh-- just to get a reaction/ F--- going platinum, I looked at my wrist and it's already platinum," he rhymes in a line which most rap fans believe is aimed at Kendrick.
On Tuesday Drake likely took another shot at Kendrick with his verse on Future's "Sh--" remix. "If a n---a say my name he the hot sh--/ And if I say that n---a name, he still the hot sh--," Drizzy raps.
When "Control" was leaked onto the Internet, it garnered media coverage from every hip-hop blog, of course MTV News and other mainstream sites like TMZ. Nearly every notable rapper from Kanye West to Eminem has fielded questions surrounding Lamar's verse in their own interviews. "He's like a hip-hop head, man, he just loves hip-hop. And obviously the way that he did the 'Control' verse, it was almost like if you get mad at him, then you might look foolish," Em told Rolling Stone.
There was a commemorative T-shirt made, listing all 11 MCs that K-Dot name dropped and a rumored scuffle between J. Cole and Diddy after the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, which reportedly was sparked by the verse.
There may have been more relatable verses, rhymes that got more play on radio ("Versace") and raps with more technical nuances ("Rap God"), but when we look back at 2013, there was none better than Kendrick Lamar's "Control."