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There are any number of singular reasons that Kendrick Lamar's verse on "Control" could have landed atop this list: It's the best verse of the year from the year's best rapper. It got everyone involved with hip-hop in any capacity—artists, fans, critics, managers, labels—talking. It brought forth tidal wave of musical responses and seems to have served as a wake up call to an entire art form. But it was not one of these things. It was all of these things.
What could have been a normal night when Big Sean released a song that didn't make the cut of his album turned into a Twitter takeover and something close to mass hysteria—a storyline whose legs, in many ways, still haven't fallen off. What was the most remarkable part of Kendrick's verbal spectacle? His proclamation that he's "King of New York?" His calling out (both as a show of respect and a challenge) of 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? The fact that the verse continues to follow those names in damn near every interview they have? His calling himself a "Black Beatle" or "new Marley?" Or putting himself in the company of Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem and Andre 3000? How 'bout the lengthy imagery at the end of the verse about how high he's raising the bar?
How 'bout the fact that none of those claims feel particularly off-base, given Kendrick Lamar's skill, output, body of work, and potential?
Before the name-calling, K. Dot warns, "This is hip-hop and them niggas should know what time it is." Consider "Control" a time check.