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Breaking Down Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” Verse: Its Nine Biggest Storylines

Kendrick Lamar

It was the verse that woke up the rap game and made everyone start looking around and eyeing each other uncomfortably; King Kendrick, still on the ascent after dropping the best debut rap album in recent memory with 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, had just laid down his first set of laws, and they were not exactly what other rappers wanted to hear. In a hip-hop landscape dominated by big beats with massive hooks, K. Dot brought lyricism back into the conversation in a way that forced people to stand up and pay attention. And, as he so helpfully pointed out in his BET Cypher two months later, “Nothing’s been the same since they dropped ‘Control.'”

There were two major flash points that raised alarm bells for two different reasons: the first was his “King Of New York” assertion, the second when he named names. The latter read like a murderer’s row of the biggest up and coming MCs in the game—J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale, Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electronica, Tyler, The Creator and Mac Miller—each called out for being Kendrick’s peers, and also on his hip-hop hit list. The former lit a fire under some of New York City’s most established MCs, provoking responses from almost every level of New York rapper. One thing was certain: Kendrick might not have broken all new ground, but he definitely caught a lot of people’s ears.

The fallout to his lines on “Control” was both swift and sustained; despite what Drake might have tried to have you believe, we are still talking about this verse right now. So without further ado, XXL is diving into the nine biggest storylines that came in the aftermath of the verse that put the rap game on a crutch. Tell Flex to drop a bomb on this shit. —Dan Rys (@danrys)

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