Hip-hop woke up. After several months of relative stagnancy and few highlights in the mainstream scene (underground heads, put your picket signs away), Kendrick’s inflammatory verse on Big Sean’s Control not only got most music fans talking, but also provoked precisely the sort of response he would have wanted from his rapping peers.
Many responded via Twitter, video or other means, and though none of those who were namechecked have taken to the studio to put out a response, several others have taken up the baton and either delivered a worthwhile response or used the opportunity to get a little bit of media coverage. The latter statement isn’t meant disrespectfully either- hip-hop is about as prominent in ‘water cooler’ and social media discussions as it has been in a rather long time, and it’s a great chance for some acts to get their names out to a wider audience. It’s tough to be mad at that opportunism.
The dust is beginning to settle, and though there’s bound to be several other rappers who are preparing responses (Joe Budden for one), now seems a good time to offer a quick recap on those who’ve offered musical replies to Kendrick’s barbed bars. Head below for a collection of the releases thus far (in no order).
- Joell Ortiz-Control Freestyle
The opening response, and one that was already covered.
- Cassidy-Control Freestyle
A prime example of an act grabbing the opportunity to secure some solid coverage, though Cass’ reputation as a battle rapper suggests this is a prime stage for him to work on. There are some fun confrontational lines in here and a couple of nice punchlines, but it descends into mediocrity at several points.
- Mickey Factz-South Park (Control Freestyle)
Like Joell, Mickey’s pretty much standing up for NY rap here. He’s an intelligent guy so there’s a good combination of wordplay and referencing, as Factz takes aim at both Kendrick and the rest of the TDE crew. The one downside is Mickey’s relatively easygoing flow, which doesn’t really maximise his lyricism’s impact.
- Astro-KONY (King of NY)
One of the first to not use the original Control beat, and instead accepting Statik Selektah’s offer of a free beat for responses. Whilst he’s only like 6 years old or something, it’s not the worst possible response, with a couple of strong, direct hits at Kendrick that are worth listening to. Gets a bit samey though, and lacks the passion of a few others.
- Lupe Fiasco-SLR (Super Lupe Rap) 2
He’s left both of the above beats alone, and instead gone with an original piece for the sequel to his Soulja Boy response from 2010. On flow and variety alone, Lupe’s ahead of the rest with this, switching between a plethora of deliveries, whilst some of the lyricism is excellent- the parallel between Kendrick’s “verbs/nouns” references and Lupe’s “antonym/metaphor” mentions is a nice touch, whilst it’s also quite fun to hear Lupe get a little aggressive elsewhere in the track. Sidenote: Lupe also dropped off his version/parody of a ‘trap’ song, which isn’t great on first listen.
- King Los-Control Freestyle
An unusual approach. He doesn’t go at anyone, instead praising Kendrick and those he mentioned, and otherwise rapping a typical bragger mainstream style- possibly the exact style of rap that raised K. Dot’s ire. On the plus side, Los’ flow and intensity is strong throughout- overall, he delivers technically, but disappoints lyrically.
Hopsin burped in response. Powerful stuff.
- JR Writer-Control Yourself
One of the better responses, purely because JR’s gritty, gristly voice packs a natural aggression that enhances his direct, confrontational lyricism. A couple of nice plays on Kendrick’s song titles, labelmates and such catch the ear too, and whilst his flow becomes a bit repetitive, there’s enough intensity and likeable lyricism in this one to make it worth coming back to. One of the better all-round responses.
- B.o.B-How 2 Rap
An original beat backs Bobby here, adding a trippy, slowed-down electronic vibe to the pack of releases here. It ends up being a little distracting in truth, particularly given the heavy lyrical focus the original (and Statik Selektah’s) beat allowed for, though Bob’s flow is watertight throughout and there’s a sense of general aggrievement that helps set the mood. Lyrically though, it seems to be driven by him not being mentioned by Kendrick rather than him getting legitimately competitive, which is a little moany and disappointing.
- Fred the Godson-Say My Name
Much like the above, this one is borne out of frustration and not being mentioned, though it’s more lyrically aggressive in places which helps somewhat. It goes off on self-absorbed tangents pretty quickly though, and stops being competitively aggressive quite quickly, whilst the initially-impressive production grates after a while. Not terrible, but this could easily be considered just another track release as opposed to a Kendrick response.