Friday, 16 August 2013

Thoughts on Kendrick Lamar's Verse on "Control"

On Tuesday, August 13th 2013, Big Sean released a track entitled Control featuring lyricists Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica. Big Sean claimed this track was supposed to make his upcoming album Hall of Fame but due to a problem with sample clearing didn't make the cut. So when this track leaked, the internet was set on fire. All I could see is tweets like "Kendrick Lamar just killed everyone in the game on Control" or "Kendrick claims King of New York and the game". Now to be honest, I am not the biggest Big Sean fan. I found his flow to be very basic, his voice annoying, and he has a terrible rhyme scheme so that pushed me away from the track at first. But me being the biggest Kendrick Lamar fan out there (He got the #1 spot on my Top Ten Lyricists in the Game) and all the claims people were making, I had to see what all the hype around this track was. Also, I highly respect Jay Electronica as an artists (Still waiting on that album though :P). After I listened to the track and Kendrick's verse in particular, I could definitely see something special that people are deteriorating with their stupidity. 

First, I'm gonna talk about Big Sean and Jay Electronica's verses briefly then dissect the content of Kendrick's verse and state my opinions on the controversy and acclaim its getting. The production was handled by legendary Chicago producer No I.D. and I gotta say the beat is monstrous! The instrumentation is mellow but when the bass comes in it sounds fantastic. The chanting sample makes the beat even more haunting. Big Sean's verse was ok, I'm not gonna lie and say it was terrible but he tried to hold his own. Some of his punchlines were very corny and his flow kinda gets lost in the track sometimes but he had some good lines. The problem to me is Big Sean doesn't sound very passionate and doesn't convey character when he's spitting. For example, I didn't hear any tone when he said personal lines like Detroit being mayorless. Jay Electronica's verse was pretty dope. He comes in at the end with a very poetic verse and references his success, signing to the Roc, and how he credits all of that to staying faithful. Lines like "I Earth, Wind, and Fire’d the verse, then rained on the hook" really stick out and show his creativeness. 

When the Bridge came in I thought Kendrick was gonna do the Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe flow. He was flowing very well but when the actual verse comes on, you can tell Kendrick wasn't fucking around any more. He switches up to the Jig Is Up (Dumpin') or The City flow but amps it up to the max. I always wished Kendrick rapped like this on more tracks so I was very happy to see him flow this viciously. Kendrick took no prisoners with his verse, not giving a fuck whether people would feel disrespected or attacked when they heard it. He claims king of the game, then name drops today's biggest rappers and says he's gonna murder them. The extended metaphor at the end was a perfect way to end the verse, reminiscent of a 1999-2001 Slim Shady. "I'm tryna raise the bar high/Who tryna jump and get it? You better off tryna skydive". Yeah, no prisoners. 

I think everyone can agree that Kendrick's verse was the highlight of the track and one of the best verses to come out in a while. The people that don't like the verse are either 1) Not Hip-Hop fans 2) Stupid 3) Snobby Backpackers or 4) Drake fans. I haven't seen a track create this much buzz since Jay Electronica's own Exhibit C. My Twitter feed was going insane and I loved seeing so many people showing Kendrick love and paying him the respect he deserves. Some people however were tweeting the stupidest stuff and it revolved around two main things: 1) Kendrick claiming he's the King of New York and 2) Kendrick "dissing" all the rappers he named (or the ones he didn't). I would like to discuss these two points real quick.

1) "King of New York" Line: I think people are taking this line way to seriously and literally. Kendrick Lamar is from the West, we all know that, so why would he claim to be King of New York? He's not stupid as to say New York is his city, and if you pay attention to what he's saying you wouldn't be flipping over this line. Kendrick said "I'm Makaveli's offspring, I'm the king of New York/King of the Coast, one hand, I juggle them both" Kendrick is saying he wants to challenge everyone, whether its from his area (King of the Coast) or from the opposite side of the game (King of New York). He wants kill MCs no matter where they're from (I JUGGLE THE BOTH). So really, if New York is gonna take offence to this, Cali should too because he wan'ts to challenged everyone no matter where they reside from.

2) "Dissing" the Mentioned/Non-Mentioned MCs: This is the one that everyone misunderstood. People quickly saw this as a diss when they heard Kendrick mentioning names which is completely stupid. People are skimming through the verse without taking a closer look at what he's saying. 

"I'm usually homeboys with the same niggas I'm rhymin' wit
But this is hip-hop and them niggas should know what time it is
And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big K.R.I.T., 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 dont wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas"

The way I interpreted these lines is Kendrick is saying he got a lot of respect for these rappers, but Hip-Hop was always about competition and he wants to bring that back. Every rapper strives to be the best and to do so he has to claim he can rap better than all the other rappers in the game. And what's wrong with that? I think this is something that has been missing in the game on the commercial level for a while. Now did Kendrick diss the rappers that weren't mentioned? I don't think so because I'm sure he had other rappers in mind but naming all of them would take too long and would look stupid. As for responses, I believe the rappers that were mentioned should respond soon because they were specifically challenged on this track. I haven't heard many good responses so far but Joell Ortiz's response was incredible. 

Now the big question still needs to be answered: Will this verse change Hip-Hop by making rappers step their bars up? To be honest I don't think that matters right now. This track has already caused rappers to put forth immediate responses but it feels like the hype around the track will soon fade. I loved what the track did for Hip-Hop for the past 48-72 hours. It brought back life to the game and inspired many. I do hope it changes the game, but if it doesn't I wouldn't be so surprised. Either way, Kendrick still put out a stellar verse and I will go on record and say this is Verse of the Year so far. After multiple listens, his flow, wordplay, aggression and hunger still gives me goosebumps. So shout-out to Kendrick Lamar, thanks for giving us something we desperately needed. 

You know the drill. What did you think of Kendrick's verse (or any of the other verses)? Do you think it will bring a change to Hip-Hop and make rappers step their game up? Is this verse even worthy of all the praise? Let me know by leaving a comment. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Born Sinner VS. Yeezus VS. Magna Carta Holy Grail: And the Winner Is...

Over the past month or so, a lot of people have been debating over their opinions on what were probably three of the most anticipated releases of 2013: J. Cole's Born Sinner, Kanye West's Yeezus, and Jay Z's Magna Carta... Holy Grail. Arguments were made about which album was the most superior, diverse and creative. To be honest I've read many reviews and saw many tweets and couldn't help but share my opinion, yet what I saw was that a lot of people couldn't agree with my opinion about these albums. Now these albums have been out for a good period of time for me to take multiple listens and formulate a full concise opinion. While I have tweeted a bit on the albums when they were released, the 140 character limit on twitter wasn't really helping me. So this forum is much more comfortable for me, as I can touch on many different aspects of the albums easily. I'll start with Born Sinner since it was released first, followed by Yeezus (same release date as Born Sinner but it leaked after), and I will conclude it with Magna Carta... Holy Grail.

J. Cole - Born Sinner:
Born Sinner was probably the most anticipated release out of the three for me because I'm a huge J. Cole fan. I've heard all of his releases since The Warm Up in which he dropped in my opinion the best Dead Presidents remix out there. I really loved his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story, and Friday Night Lights was a stellar mixtape. Miss America only increased my expectations of the album and I couldn't wait for the release. So when the album finally dropped and I got a chance to listen to it, my first reaction was: That's it? That's all you got Cole? I was really disappointed with the album. I didn't walk with that many memorable lines or songs and I lost interest while listening to it. Now before you stop reading thinking this is gonna be a negative review, you should let me finish! As June passed and July came, I continued to listen to the album hoping it would grow on me. By the end of July, I finally got to see how great of an album Born Sinner is. With Born Sinner, J. Cole truly shows how he can create an album were the production fully matches the lyrics, and I guess that's why the album fell short at first. The production is very mellow most of the time, so its a mood album. If you're expecting to get a boom-bap spitteriffic album, this album could bore you. But with repeated listens, I fully submerged myself into the music. 

Lyrically, J. Cole has improved incredible and his production is fantastic. The strings, horns, and jazz samples fit perfectly, and the lack of guest features shows how J. Cole can carry an album by himself. Songs like She Knows, Trouble, and Runaway grew on me a lot, with the first getting extremely catchy with every listen. Songs I loved from the first listen like Villuminati, Power Trip, Let Nas Down, and Born Sinner got even better with every listen. Also, I thought it was very daring of Cole to use the beat from OutKast's classic Da Art of Storytellin' Pt. 1 on LAnd of the Snakes, but he does his thing on that song and it works out great. My only disappointment with this album is the lack of a Kendrick Lamar verse on Forbidden Fruit. That track was so dope but after the song was done and all I heard from Kendrick was the hook, I was pissed. The song would've been a classic if Kendrick dropped a verse, but nevertheless its still one of my favorite songs on the album. So those are my thoughts on Born Sinner. Be sure to check it out if you haven't already. Also, check out Nas's remix of Let Nas Down in which he responds and tells the story from his perspective, its incredible!


Favorite Track(s): Villuminati, Mo Money (Interlude), Power Trip, She Knows, Forbidden Fruit, Ain't That Some Shit (Interlude), Let Nas Down & Born Sinner.

Least Favorite Track(s): Chaining Day

Kanye West - Yeezus:
Warning: The following "review" contains opinions that can be perceived as being presented in a negative tone. No hate is intended, only constructive criticism. If you feel a negative review will offend you (which really shouldn't happen), please don't bother reading this.

OKAY! This is gonna be fun! Kanye West is arrogant, a hypocrite, and an asshole; but he's also one of my favorite rappers. The College Dropout and Late Registration are classics in my opinion, featuring Kanye in his prime as both a lyricist AND a producer. How could you deny his talent on tracks like We Major, Gone, Drive Slow, Touch the Sky, and Two Words? (You could tell Late Registration is my favorite). Graduation was solid, 808s & Heartbreaks was a masterpiece in my opinion, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was absolutely stellar. So up to this point, Kanye is on a roll right? Then came Watch the Throne, yeah I didn't like that album at all. Kanye seemed like he was uninspired and the production was decent at best. Otis, Murder to Excellence, and New Day were excellent, but every other track fell short to me. Songs like Lift Off and That's My Bitch made me wonder why everyone loved it so much, but whatever, everyone has their own opinion. So Yeezus was announced and I got super excited. I thought maybe Watch the Throne fell short due to it being a collaborative project. Now that his next album was a solo one, he'd be more focused. Right? That's actually pretty ironic because "focused" seems to be the antithesis of this album. 

To me,Yeezus was a very lazy attempt to experiment with a sound that was blowing up last year. Kanye probably heard El-P production on Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music and his own Cancer 4 Cure, and mixed that with some weird dubstep. But his biggest, and most obvious, "influence" seems to be Death Grips. Kanye obviously heard Exmilitary and The Money Store and decided to prove he can bring this type of sound into the mainstream, in a cocky way. Not to say the sounds from those albums are bad, I love Death Grips and El-P and Killer Mike's albums were some of my favorites last year, but Kanye's attempt fell short. It sounded very noisy and the production wasn't layered very well. Which brings me to my biggest gripe: EVERYONE SAYING THIS ALBUM IS ORIGINAL! Yeezus is in no way original, creative or groundbreaking. Music like this has existed for years and has not received enough recognition, but when Kanye does it, it has to be the best thing ever right? Nah bro, not for me. Another big gripe is Kanye struggled very much with his verses. His lyrics were so bad at times they made my skin crawl. How can someone stand a track like I'm In It? It feels like Kanye was either struggling with his bars or was just rushing this album. Sure tracks like New Slaves were very topical, but everything he said in that song feels insignificant because he  contradicts himself on tracks like On Sight. If there's anything great about Yeezus its that last song Bound 2 which was very soulful and touching, reminiscent of The College Dropout production style, which kinda makes me feel like Kanye tricked me with this album. Black Skinhead was also pretty awesome, I thought the production one that track was very extravagant and colossal, and I definitely see replay value with it. Blood on the Leaves was also a great track, reminiscent of 808s & Heartbreaks sound (which I personally loved). Kanye may have overused the autotune, but the soul of the song is still there. But in the end, I tend to find more flaws with Yeezus with evry repeated listens to the point were I don't feel the need to listen to it anymore. I actually remember liking it a bit at first, but it definitely didn't grow on me. So yeah I'm not feeling this album that much and I don't really recommend it either. My dislike for it seems to be more concerned with the album conceptually, but I don't feel I dislike it to the point were I hate it. I don't mind if people like it though, its really cool if you do, I just don't agree with the "ground-breaking" statements. 


Favorite Track(s): Bound 2, Blood on the Leaves & Black Skinhead

Least Favorite Track(s): On Sight, I Am a God, I'm In It, Guilt Trip & Send It Up

Jay Z - Magna Carta... Holy Grail: 
To me, Jay Z is easily one of the most influential Hip-Hop figures of all time. The way he was able to crossover into the mainstream and maintain a career of straight number 1 albums is commendable. He has maintained his popularity over the years through music, his interest in sports, business ventures and much more. But all that aside, is Jay Z the best of all time as a rapper? No. Not even close. Not even top 10 for me. I personally believe Jay Z is overrated as a rapper, possibly the most overrated in the game. To me, Jay Z hasn't dropped a great album since The Black Album (with the exception of American Gangster). Even before The Black Album, I only truly loved The Blueprint and my personal favorite; Reasonable Doubt. Sure Jay Z isn't in the same place he used to be, but after a while, the bragging gets a bit too boring for me. He isn't as creative and lyrically complex as he used to be, yet people still hold him so high up the pedestal. To be honest, I didn't really care much about Jay Z releasing this album. I mean the title sounded cool, and some of the features sounded interesting, but I wasn't very hyped for it. Nevertheless I copped the album and gave it a listen and to be honest, I wasn't that disappointed. 

 I didn't like this album that much. Yeah I wasn't disappointed, but that's because I didn't expect anything amazing. I expected Jay Z to rap about his fame, money, influence and to brag, and he does all this throughout Magna Carta... Holy Grail. I only wish he did it better. When the first song Holy Grail came in, I was overly impressed with Justin Timberlake's vocals. He sounded incredible and very passionate. But then came Jay Z and ruined the whole song with verses that have nothing to do with the hook. His flow on this album sounded very off on many songs and he wasn't getting busy on the mic very often. What saves this album a little bit was the production, which was very well layered throughout the album. Picasso Baby sounded awesome and Jay Z was dropping nice bars on that track as well. Oceans, which features vocals from Frank Ocean, was also a great song. Jay Z was really flowing well on that track and Frank Ocean added to the tone of the song with his chilling vocals. But there were too many tracks that fell short for me. Tom Ford was horrible and FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt with Rick Ross was almost unlistenable. Even Nas didn't impress me on BBC, which I was looking forward to the most. Overall, the album sounded very rushed and Jay Z wasn't impressing me as a lyricist. Like Yeezus, this album got worse with repeated listens. 


Favorite Track(s): Picasso Baby & Oceans

Least Favorite Track(s): Tom Ford, FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt, F.U.T.W., Jay Z Blue & La Familia. 

So yeah, that's my opinion on Born Sinner, Yeezus, and Magna Carta... Holy Grail. As for the winner, J. Cole takes that spot easily. He had by far the best album of the 3 and I look forward to more of his music now that he established himself as a consistent mainstream yet lyrical solo artist. I found it ironic that my favorite of the three started off as very disappointing, but with more listens got better while the others got worse with each listen. What do you guys think? Which album was the best? Let me know by leaving a comment. Peace.