Hip-hop saw this coming. We didn’t, but Kendrick Lamar did. Calling out rappers is something he’s been subliminally doing for 10 months after his released his debut Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City last October. Most will disagree when I say this: He is the King, period, no matter how you slice it and dice it. And here’s why.
Every single rapper (including Jay Z) and the majority of the world deemed GKMC a classic. Lamar didn’t have to say names 10 months ago because he knew every rapper, dead or alive, took notice that his debut raised the new bar of what a hip-hop album supposed to sound like. When I wrote the GKMC album review last October, I concluded my review asking if his album was a classic album because it had beats, rhymes and life. Fast forward 10 months later. Since Oct. 23, has any hip-hop album come close to that formula? Before you wrap your head around that question, let’s take a look at all the major releases since Lamar’s debut.
Did Meek Mill’s debut Dreams and Nightmares come close? Not really. Did The Game’s fifth album Jesus Piece come close? Not quite. Was T.I.’s Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head noteworthy? Maybe a little bit. Didn’t you think Wiz Khalifa’s Cabin Fever 2 was better than his second album O.N.I.F.C.? ASAP Rocky’s debut LONG.LIVE.ASAP was solid but so-so. Lil Wayne’s I Am Not a Human Being II doesn’t belong in the “elite album” category. French Montana’s debut Excuse My French was purely marginal. Wale slightly climbed up the elite ladder with The Gifted, but the album had its “trying-so-hard to go over peoples heads with my rhymes moments”. Tyler the Creator came and disappeared with Wolf. Tyga’s Hotel California was the usual blah-blah-blah rhymes. Big Sean’s Hall of Fame, Ace Hood’s Trials and Tribulations and Kevin Gate’s Stranger Than Fiction were improvement albums. We feel the peace and love Snoop, but Reincarnated was irrelevant to hip-hop. Does anyone know the name of Mac Miller’s second album? From an artistry perspective, Yeezus and MagnaCartaHolyGrail were similar “outside the box albums” like GKMC, but if you take a vote on how people feel about both albums, let alone both artist, their main responses are “man them n****s be rapping about some other s***”. Birdman’s Rich Gang album was trash. Tech N9ne’s Something Else scored great, but black folks don’t listen to him. Hell, I’ll even throw Juicy J’s Stay Trippy and A$AP Ferg’s Trap Lord album in the mix just to be nice. With that said, if there’s an album within the last 10 months that parallels GKMD, it’s J. Cole’s Born Sinner. And that’s the reason why Kendrick mentioned him first with “the new n****z is just new n****z” group. J. Cole is not from New York, which further backs my point and segues into a game called fact or fiction.
Lamar gets more radio airplay in New York than any New York artist. Fact. Every show in the country or outside the country has been sold out, including New York. Fact. His debut was better than any New York rapper’s CD in the last five or six years. Fact. Isn’t it ironic how this man performed on Sunday at the Video Music Awards in Brooklyn (city where hip hop originated) wearing an LA fitted hat. He knows the public magnifying glass were watching, so by him making it known in front of millions that “So what if I’m in New York, I’m going to wear my crown (LA fitted hat) and continue to rub it in till all you rappers do something about it” wasn’t by mistake.
Not to mention, aside from MagnaCartaHolyGrail (platinum in one day), GKMC is the only platinum album within the last 10 months. Sorry Hov, but Kendrick went platinum without having two minute marketing commercials run every hour. With that said, is he wrong for crowning himself the king of NY? Is he wrong for crowning himself the king of hip-hop? Fiction. In this game, Kendrick Lamar is masterminding every move. Stealing a line from the Intro track of The Carter IV, Lil Wayne says it best: “This a game of chess, You rappers think it’s cleavage.”
New York is nowhere to be seen even though a bunch of low-grade New York rappers responded. Where is Fabolous’? Where is 50 Cent? Where is Nas? Where is Nicki Minaj? Where is Busta Rhymes? Where is Cam’ron? Where is Lloyd Banks? Where is hip-hop?
I think about this critical situation and compare it to other key moments when I first heard Jay Z’s Blueprint album and his diss record toward Nas and Mobb Deep. I think about when I heard Nas’ response and the entire planet froze, or how LL Cool J and Cannibus’ quick jabs became famous. Rappers like Nas, Biggie, Jay Z, Raekwon and Method Man fought with vigilance to protect the “King” title.
In today’s New York scene, you don’t see that. Back in the gap, Snoop Dogg and his Dogg Pound crew made a classic video knocking over the buildings of NYC in the ’90s. I bet you any New York artist won’t make a video crashing downtown LA. Whether it was before “East vs. West Coast beef” or after, artists from Los Angeles never backed down from competition from East Coast rappers, let alone hip-hop. Why? Because the West were the first to kick that gangsta flav and win. Jay Z has a famous punchline referencing the situation many years after the fact when tensions died down: “While y’all player hate we in the upper millions / What’s the dealings? / It’s like New York’s been soft ever since Snoop came through and crushed the buildings.”
New York is where hip-hop started. It’s the heartbeat of hip-hop. You go on street corners in Harlem or the projects in Queens; you ask them who’s running the rap game and see what their answer is. You ask any true hip-hop fan about Black Hippy and I guarantee you nobody will say there’s a better rap group out there backing Kendrick. It’s deeper than lyrics when a feature verse changed hip-hop. If we notice better music since Aug.12, 2013, then Kendrick Lamar will be legendary based on that alone. You heard the saying, “It’s not over till the fat lady sings.” Will that fat lady sing on September 24?