It’s easy to listen to an entire verse, catch a few names, grab your iPhone, and then tweet a couple of hash-tagged-expletives until the rambling ultimately ends — with an @kendricklamar. How could he have done this? Drake is on one of his records. He and Drake are on one of A$AP Rocky’s records. Has anyone checked on Drake? Enough. Music is a game.
Hip hop is a game. C’mon, that can’t be too groundbreaking, can it? “Who’s the best in the game?” Anyone who has ever found themselves discussing hip hop inevitably stumbles across that question, sooner or later. The game. Biggie? Or Pac. Bird or Magic? Sh*t. That’s your opinion, you’re entitled. I don’t answer either.
You know, it’s funny how times change. Games change. Somewhere along the road, Woodstock became Ultra, and two-three became the Big 3 –and maybe I just really like music and basketball, or maybe I’m just brutally ignorant to everything else — but somehow in life, I can relate everything back to these two entities. Maybe they’re just really similar. Both were probably better in the 90s, and that’s my opinion — I’m entitled, remember?
Death aside, I loved the animosity between the coasts and on the airwaves. “Competition breeds excellence,” and music is certainly no exception. Adidas would never have three stripes if it weren’t for Reebok, Reebok would’ve never drew up the Pumps if it weren’t for Adidas, and Nikes wouldn’t be the best if it weren’t for all the others. It’s no different in music, except exchange Adidas for Bad Boy and Reebok for Death Row — which is why I have a pair of Pumps on right now (in the Knicks color way), listening to “Hit ‘Em Up” (through my white iPhone 5 headphones). Guess both stood the test of time.
Competition tends to do that. It inspires people, creates identities. People die, identities don’t. Christopher Wallace’s music is just the tip of the iceberg that is his identity. I can recite every lyric, ad lib, and studio scripted blunt-cough on Ready to Die, but whenever I hear Biggie, I think East Coast. That was his team. Don’t get me wrong, I can recount every one of Larry Bird’s fabled individual performances (thank you Bill Simmons), but whenever I see Larry Bird, I think Boston. That was his team. Both Christopher Wallace and Larry Bird were a part of something bigger than themselves, something worth fighting for.
Today there are no teams. There are superteams. The hottest hip hop song is the one that’s featuring the most artists, and the NBA Champions are really just LeBron James feat. Dwyane Wade, Bosh and Friends. I wish LeBron James could release a song that called out Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. God knows Kevin Durant needs to hear it. Or maybe when the buzzer blows, he’d rather just laugh with the King while red and white confetti falls, I don’t really know.
Kendrick Lamar doesn’t need to call anyone out. That’s not what he was doing. If you think Kendrick Lamar wasted energy to pick up a pen and let America know he doesn’t quite fancy Mac Miller — you’ve lost it, man. He didn’t say Aubrey Graham’s name to inspire hate — that’s love — he’s trying to inspire something else. Kendrick Lamar’s verse on Big Sean’s new single “Control” was not a a jab or a right hook, but a tap, as if to say you’re it. Time for Joe Budden to tweet, “@kendricklamar u my nigga 4 life bro.. But u gon learn today.” and then go find his pen and scribble something down. Michael Jordan’s got his tongue out — time to man up.
Kendrick coincidentally refers to being called a “black Beatle” midway through his verse. I was thinking Lennon even before he said that, when he called himself Makaveli’s offspring — and the King of New York — in the same sentence. I don’t believe in Zimmerman either, John. Or the Beatles. At the end of the day, music is subjective — that’s the beauty of it. Each subject has a say, each subject plays a role within the bigger game. Kendrick Lamar’s verse inspired me, hopefully Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale, Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electronica, Tyler the Creator and Mac MIller, too. Hopefully their next records inspire you.
PS — go Google the story of Michael Jordan and the cigar — on his Ferarri. Tap. You’re it.