Brow Beat

This Is the Verse of the Year

Kendrick Lamar

Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images for BET

Rapper Kendrick Lamar has been one of the biggest breakout musical artists of the last year or so, impressing critics and fans alike with the introspective lyrics and distinctive voice on his major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city.

But as wildly talented as Lamar has proven to be, nothing quite prepared listeners for his appearance on Big Sean’s track “Control (HOF),” which was supposed to be featured on the Sean’s upcoming album, but didn’t make the cut due to sample clearance issues. As soon as the track hit the Web, listeners hailed Lamar’s guest spot the verse of the year.

You should really just listen to it for yourself. (His verse begins right around the 3:00 mark.) It is Lamar at his most driven, convincing, and intense. Pitchfork compares the verse to Nicki Minaj’s career-defining appearance on the 2010 Kanye West track “Monster,” but Lamar goes somewhere Minaj did not: He lists himself among the greatest emcees of all time (along with Jay Z, Biggie, Nas, Eminem, and Andre 3000) and then proceeds to name several rappers—all of whom he’s collaborated with in the past—who “should know what time it is.” He even calls out Big Sean and Jay Electronica, his collaborators on the track.*

The best response so far is probably the one from Mac Miller, one of those called-out rappers. Lamar declared that the fans of these rappers didn’t “wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas,” so Miller replied: “If I can’t do no more nouns or verbs, ima start comin with the wildest adjective bars that anyone has ever heard.”

Here’s hoping Miller and other rappers rise to the lyrical challenge. Hip-hop fans, and hip-hop itself, will only benefit.

Correction, August 13, 2013: This post originally misstated that Lamar did not call out Big Sean and Jay Electronica on the song.