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

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Joell Ortiz

With the rap community holding its collective breath, it was Slaughterhouse’s Joell Ortiz who wound up being the first to respond to Kendrick’s verse, addressing his King of New York claim with a freestyle that wound up among the best responses. I ain’t even gotta give this too much thought / Joell Ortiz won every war that he ever fought / This ain’t no different, I’m listening, you the king of New York? / Lil homie you ain’t the king of New York, you the next thing on my fork,” Ortiz said, though he would later explain he respected Kendrick for what he did.

”It hit me as am MC.. The MC in me wouldn’t stand for that. So I did what I did,” the Brooklyn native would tell Vlad TV. “I really love what [Kendrick’s] doing for the culture. I love what he’s doing for hip-hop and being such an honest person, and when I heard the record I loved it. This is what I’m talking about, bringing it back to that competitive nature that we all grew up on…I appreciate his bravery. I gotta respect it. Although, I obviously immediately disagreed.”

J. Cole

One of the last to address his shoutout in the track was J. Cole, and he didn’t respond back at Kendrick so much as incorporate his own reaction to hearing the track into a story about a woman scorning him (how typically J. Cole). “Thought you was a down ass bitch / ’til I found that shit a couple days ago / I was home alone, next thing I know / That long ass verse from a song called ‘Control’ was on / The room got nearer, the tune got clearer / That’s when I seen the shit playing on your phone / Girl, what is that, a ringtone / Shit, not you too / Man that hype done got you too / Everybody and their momma gassed / Even my momma asked what I’mma do.”

Cole’s reaction was highly anticipated, if only because of the constant rumors of a collaborative album or mixtape between him and K. Dot, and Kendrick would later acknowledge that Cole did his thing on his verse. He did manage to sneak in a little retort—”Decisions, decisions / In case this is war, then I load up on all ammunition / If a nigga want problems, my trigger’s on auto / I’ll make sure that nobody miss him”—but it was nothing serious. The bigger story was that Cole even addressed it at all.



Of all the people Kendrick name-checked on “Control,” the most curious may have been Drake; the two had collaborated in the past and would appear to have been on good terms, but Drizzy was also arguably the one rapper on the roll call that was bigger than Kendrick in both sales and stature. Drake initially let the wave build and and crash against the beach, but he also was gearing up to drop a little thing called Nothing Was The Same, and would wind up being asked about it repeatedly in the press. His response came off as if he’d barely noticed, as if it was a minor irritant—a fly in the kitchen—rather than something worth responding to.

“I know good and well that Kendrick’s not murdering me, at all, in any platform,” he said bluntly to Billboard in September. “So when that day presents itself, I guess we can revisit the topic.” But Drake was forced to keep revisiting it, eventually responding in a near-hostile manner during a CRWN interview, saying exasperatedly, “Are you listening to it now? At this point?… It’s been, like, one album. Consistency is make more than one album. I look forward to seeing what he does… When it comes to competition, I’m more worried about consistency, about bodies of work.”

Strong words from somebody who had professed to not care. When Kendrick was asked about Drake for his GQ cover story, he was cordial, if a little dismissive. “Pretty cool,” Kendrick said when asked if the two were cool. “I mean, I would be okay if we weren’t.” More on that one later.

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