Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Music Post: Control

Before (or after, if that floats your boat) reading, please listen to this song and read the lyrics to Kendrick Lamar's verse: http://rapgenius.com/Big-sean-control-lyrics

Control, a song that didn't make Big Sean's sophomore album due to a sampling issue, will - without question or debate - go down as the most polarizing song of 2013. Unfortunately for Big Sean, it's not because of the bars he laid down, although they are very good. It's also not because of the appearance of Jay Electronica, a MC whose skills have become more legend than fact, as he has failed to release a project since signing a record deal with Jay-Z's Roc Nation label. 
This song is memorable and incredible because of the words in one person: Kendrick Lamar.
As the 1990s faded away and we moved to an era where competition is almost non-existent, the 26-year-old Compton MC shook the entire game up when he name dropped most of his relevant peers, even those that has working relationships with. Names like J. Cole, A$AP Rocky and even Big Sean are mentioned and in his voice you hear not only the intended shock value, but the underlying malice in his words. It's almost as if he's daring you to come at him.
His respectful call out is exactly what I think the rap game is missing. Every one is content being friends with one another – no matter what Drake has to say – and not push the game to higher levels, making it more interesting and meaningful. And I think this has a real life applicability to it.
As writers, even if we are writing about different topics and in different styles, we are all going to be trying to feed ourselves from the same plate. The money has to come from somewhere and we are all going to be competing for our own livelihoods, our own futures and a sense of security.
In my ideal profession – long form sports writing – there’s a ton of talent not only at the top (looking at you Wright Thompson, Ben Fowlkes and Jonathan Abrams) but even here at campus there are writers with bright futures that I’m going to go up against. There’s Christian Hoppens from the Post, who just recently caught my eye. And even at the magazine I write for - Backdrop  - has two of my best friends in Athens (Zak Kolesar and Chris Longo) on staff and they both are fantastic.
Sure, I want to see them succeed (and it's a different game because there is far less money involved) but, in the end, I want to out write them every time I put my fingers on the keyboard and I want there to be no doubting my skills as a wordsmith.
And like Kendrick rapped on Control: “What is competition/ I’m trying to raise the bar high/Who tryna jump and get it?”


  1. Chris,
    I remember hearing about the verse from Kendrick all over social media. It created so much controversy, but in the end it gave him the attention he was looking for. I think that you're right, it was inevitable that someone was going to call out the competition with the growing rate of hip-hop and rap community. I think it is important to recognize, as a writer, that you are not going to get to the top without a little friendly competition and that is exactly what Kendrick did. Maybe overall it will serve as motivation. I'm glad you recognized this in this piece. You did a good job adding your personal opinion to the facts you're naming. Pulling it into a personal lesson, when you talk about the will to "out-write" your peers helps make this something others can relate too. Being a rap fan, I enjoyed this piece. Make sure you watch grammar before you click post, though. :)

  2. “What is competition/ I’m trying to raise the bar high/Who tryna jump and get it?”
    I had never heard this line before (call me what you will; I'm not much of a hip-hop guy) but I think it's a great one.
    I'm an unapologetic fan of a good quote, and I think this one is bulletin board worthy.
    Wright Thompson is the poster child of long-form sports journalism, and Abrams is another awesome example of someone to look up to. I haven't heard of Fowlkes — I'll have to check him out.
    I think it's really valuable to take stock of the talent around you and get to work, network — whatever — with them. Christian is a great writer who has a lot of voice in everything he does. I have a lot of respect for Chris and Zak, too. Backdrop does a lot of great stuff.
    One thing I always caution myself against is comparing myself directly to other reporters on campus too much. It can be both a positive and negative experience, I think.
    Anyway, thanks for bringing that lyric to my attention.

  3. I like what's going on here. You're recognizing a strain in another kind of art and applying it to your own life, and I think the call-outs are knowing. I'd have liked to see you have fun with it and call out--in a very un-hip-hop-style--someone's poor use of semi-colons, or something.


  4. This is dope. Your absolutely right, everybody is competing for the same plate of food in every industry. When someone works a corporate gig, they are not only competing with their co-workers for that promotion or raise, but with interns, college graduates who are hungry to make their new found place in the world, and themselves. I've always been the type to compete with myself more than anybody else. If I make a really good song or write a really good video, "really good" becomes "ehh" after that, and I'm trying to make better. "Really good" becomes status quo and I raise my own bar. At the end of the day, some people are naturally more talented than others at certain things but the world respects consistency and progression. As long as everything someone makes seems to get better and better with each project, regardless if it's not the viewers taste they can't stop anticipating the next release. Kendrick has definitely raised the bar, but like all rappers in the game, it's always someone else better and getting better everyday waiting on their chance "MURDER THESE NI*****!!" (Kendrick voice)