Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and no we’re not talking Jay Z here) for the past week or so, you would have heard Kendrick Lamar’s show stealing verse on Big Sean’s “Control”. Claiming King as far as the city of New York goes, and then informing some of your favourite rappers that it’s a wrap once he gets on the mic, there’s no doubt that the good kid from a mad city has ruffled his fair share of feathers as of late.
With so many responses out there, some have been newsworthy (Papoose and Lupe Fiasco take a bow), some haven’t, and some have been recorded in the name of jest (thank you Madd Rapper). Two that have stuck out in many peoples minds are the responses from Slaughterhouse brethren Joell Ortiz—whose “Outta Control” was the first to hit the net—and Joe Budden.
Speaking to VIBE while on tour in London, three quarters of the Slaughterhouse regime—Joell Ortiz, Crooked I and Royce Da 5’ 9” - spoke on their responses and why both Royce and Crooked have chosen not to get involved, even after Joell threw his crew in to the mix with the line, “You feel you haven’t gotta acknowledge my clique?”
As the very first emcee to publicly respond to Kendrick Lamar’s now infamous verse, before anything, Joell Ortiz admits to being on side with the TDE rhymer. “Kendrick actually voiced how I’ve been feeling for a very long time,” he says. “I wanted to be one of the first voices that had a voice on the matter itself because I feel like I’m an elite player. Every time an all-star game gets put together, in my mind and my heart I feel like I should be in there. I’ve never sacrificed my heart or compromised what I talk about to try to get radio play, smash hit records, or stuff like that. I’ve always remained true to self and been a fan first. [I’m] a fan of true lyrics, the Hip-Hop art, and storytelling. You know? Things that [the game is] missing. In all actuality they’re the things Kendrick captured on his album. I wanted to be one of the first responders because I feel like it mattered what I said on this particular matter.”
“If you really listen to mine, I don’t really go at Kendrick,” he continues. “I go at the King of New York reference. The only reason people know I’m talking about him is because he said about [being] the King of New York. I respect that guy and what he’s doing for the culture, his honesty as an artist, and his bravery to say something like that on the stage he’s on. But the Hip-Hop emcee in me won’t allow myself to just agree with it. I have to disagree. It’s how I feel. Forget about the politics. The kid that stood on the corner in Brooklyn rhyming in cyphers can’t allow that. And that’s who responded.”
Joe Budden, another cog in the non-stop Slaughterhouse machine also had to reply. He just couldn’t help himself. A on again, off again shit-starter, he even got in to a Twitter beef with rapper Styles P over the original version of “Control”. Budden’s own response to the record appeared to be a two day myth at first. Premiering it on Ustream, Joey decided to back out of the fight and not release it. After a few days of fans attempting to make out the Ustream version that leaked, a CDQ version hit the web. With scathing lines such as, “Light Jay Elec ass up, that’s my Exhibit A,” and, “Know he love Philly so I’m leavin’ him with Black Thoughts,” it wasn’t just Kendrick on the receiving end. Putting it down about the current state of New York Hip-Hop, Detroit’s Royce Da 5’ 9” says his brothers-in-rhyme were just protecting their territory.
“Joey and Joell didn’t really take his rap personally. It was just the “King of New York” line. They’re from New York and New York is in a place right now... well, Hip Hop is in a place, but New York isolated is in a place where it’s probably a good time for people to start standing up in the name of New York. It’s not for me to understand. I just had no idea everybody was going to take what he said so seriously.”
Comparing Kendrick’s verse to a line from his own repertoire, Royce thinks it was a clever move. “He opened up a crazy door for all emcees. Before he did that verse the general consensus was lyrics weren’t popular. They weren’t cool. He made that shit cool again. He got the whole world paying attention to that shit, like how I did when I did the ‘Hi Rihanna’ thing. You know what I’m saying? He did one of those maneuvers. He took it back. I salute that.”
K. Dot’s fellow West Cost rhymer Crooked I doesn’t want to get involved in any way. “There’s no reason for me to [get involved],” says California’s Crooked I. “People were hitting me on my Twitter like, ‘Yo, are you gonna respond?’ I thought you were supposed to respond to somebody talking to you. You know what I’m saying? He’s not doing anything that offends me.”
Commenting on some of the folks that appear to be catching feelings, Crooked offers a word of advice. “Leave those feelings alone man. Just fucking rap man! And all the people around you; your entourage. They don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. You know what I’m saying? They’re just feeding you negativity. ‘You gonna let him say that? When we see him in the club we should smash him in the face with a bottle.’ No! Don’t do no shit like that. This is rap. I see all too often rappers that are influenced by their entourage. Let it be a sport.”
As a former Death Row artist, who reps the west to the death, Crooked I feels that Kendrick did the west a favor. As a region famed for its storytelling and street tales, the torch has now been passed and a new type of west coast emcee is flying the flag [the right way] in the commercial market.
“Sometimes it takes a verse like that from somebody from the west to show the skill level and to make people of importance, or so-called importance, say, ‘Hey, what else is over there?’ He’s doing a great job holding that lyrical torch on the west coast because you know all too often people think that west coast rappers are just good storytellers and that they’re not really the bar for bar type that can’t compete. That’s just a myth. That’s something that needs to die. He’s helping to put that to rest. He annihilated a beat and just kept it real. He said, ‘Hey man, it’s all fun and games but when we get on that basketball court somebody gotta win the game.’ That’s the only way I took it. We can all slap hands and everything else but when Michael Jordan got on the court he was trying to destroy the competition.”