Saturday, August 17, 2013

Thoughts on Kendrick Lamar and "the verse"

Much props to friend and fellow blogger Brandon "Bfresh" Foster" for inspiring me to create this post!

 Before I talk about Kendrick Lamar's verse that has had the hip hop community buzzing this week, I want to give a little history. I can't recall when I first heard him, but it was through a recommendation that I check him out, and this was [long] before "good kid maad city" dropped. I checked out "Section 80" and the first time I listened to it, I honestly wasn't impressed. It was something about his voice that didn't sit well with me, and I had no plans on revisiting it. Fast forward some months later, the buzz on him was growing, and a few months prior to the release of "GKMC," I decided to revisit "Section 80." Like I always mentioned, it was on that second listen that it won me over, and from there I considered myself a fan (plus I copped "Section 80" a day later). 

I then went back and listened to "The City" off of The Game's "Red Album," and man, saying he stole the show on that song is a complete understatement, and with all due respect to Game, someone I'm also a fan of, Kendrick's verse was the best on that entire album. Now, I was looking forward to "GKMC," but I wasn't highly anticipating it like everyone else was. In addition, I checked out the samples via Amazon, and my immediate thought was, "naw, I'm not going to bother with this one". Then came October 22, 2012, the release date of "GKMC."


Almost immediately, I was reading and hearing very positive feedback on the album, making me realize that this was one of those albums I had to sit down and take my time with while listening to it, which I did. I first listened to it via Spotify, and I'll admit, just going on the Amazon samples alone wouldn't have done this album justice. It's quite the excellent concept album, certainly one of the best of 2012, however, my view on it has changed a bit. First, my initial 4.5 star rating went down to a solid 4 stars. Second, it has lost a little replay value with me. I know some people are not going to agree with that, which is fine, but that's how I feel about this album. Songs like "Poetic Justice" and "Swimming Pools (Drank)," just to name two (and please don't highlight the fact that these are the two songs they play on the radio) are no longer impressive to me. Is the album a "game changer?" For the West Coast, it is, but I can't say it was a full force change in hip hop overall, because things are still the same for the most part. Speaking of changing the game.......

Comparisons to "Illmatic"

THIS part of the post will be short, direct, and sweet. NO album, outside of "Stillmatic," can be compared to "Illmatic," not one, and it made me laugh when those comparisons came about. "Illmatic" changed hip hop in a sense that Nas forced other MCs to step their lyrical game up at a time when so called Gangsta Rap was the in thing, which is NO knock on it at all. Plus when you factor in when "Illmatic" was released, it was Nas' debut, the production, the almost ahead of its time lyricism, among many other things, this comparison is about as ill-advised at they come. "GKMC" did not change hip hop when you look at the big picture, because while it put the West Coast back on the map, the South is still the dominate region. "GKMC" did not force other artists to be more creative or to be more conceptual, it did not force other artists to be more lyrical. In fact, lyrics in most songs these days are about as ignorant and stupid as I've ever heard. What Kendrick Lamar did was show that even if you start on the independent scene, hard work, dedication to your craft, and BEING YOURSELF will bring the desired results (at least on a mainstream level), which is what happened and I respect him for it.

The verse

Here's the link if you haven't heard the verse yet:

Now, Kendrick's verse was great, I'll give him that. I don't think I've ever heard him that aggressive and I can see why it shook the hip hop world, so to speak (I'll be surprised if we hear that side of him again). What got everyone up in arms was the fact that he called out some names, such as J. Cole, Pusha T, Drake and Tyler, The Creator. Some took this as a direct diss, others saw it as a way to light a [lyrical] fire under artists in a genre where lyricism continues to be at an all time low, or perhaps both. I won't display all the names, but this one verse had countless artists coming with responses, thoughts, feelings, you name it. It led me to ask, was this a "spur of the moment" decision by Kendrick or was it a pre-planned one? I asked this in a Facebook group I participate in, "Hip Hop 101", and fellow poster Jamal "Jaymalik" Walker said this:

"Yeah it had to seems like he was talking to his buddys all the dudes he named.....thats prob why they never said anything but then the reaction came and now he has to be ready for lyrical war......."

Jamal also felt that Kendrick made a mistake by doing this. I'm not sure if I agree with that at this point, but I see where he's coming from. And he also had this to say:

"yeah it seemed planned i figured that out the day after it came out because i never heard anybody name drop in a song and the dudes you named dropped says nothing....thats not the code of an i think he let them know before his verse was mastered they wasnt in the studio together i def know that"

Those are some additional good points, and I also want to point something out. During all of the talk of Kendrick's verse, 2Pac's "Hit Em Up" was mentioned (NOT sure why), and I recall reading someone say that "nobody got mad at Pac when he did the same thing." Smh+lol, first of all, this is NOT the same thing at all. While Kendrick was seemingly name dropping/calling at random, Pac and the Outlawz VICIOUS words at The Notorious B.I.G., Bad Boy Records, Mobb Deep, Lil Kim, Chino XL, etc were not random, and those familiar with this part of hip hop history will be the first to tell you that Pac had his reasons for going at them the way he did, plus the "East Coast/West Coast" tension was still thick. So again, any comparisons of Kendrick name dropping to what Pac did on "Hit Em Up" are so ill-advised like the "GKMC" comparisons to "Illmatic" are.

Overall, I feel it's still a little early to tell whether this is going to help or hurt Kendrick in the long run. Only time will tell on that one. I also noticed how he hasn't said anything in references to ALL of the responses thrown at him, and honestly I won't be surprised if he says nothing at all, especially after that type of verse he delivered. I also wouldn't be surprised if this was something that wasn't planned, then again, a good number of things wouldn't be surprising to me in today's hip hop world, but that's another story. So, the only thing I can say in reference to where we go from here, regarding Kendrick, is either the buzz surrounding him will increase or decrease, and if this will help or hurt a seemingly promising career. And for that I say stay tuned!

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