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9 Ways Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Control’ Verse Changed the World

How the rapper made Big Sean’s 2013 single one of the most important hip-hop songs of the last decade

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar performing in Hollywood, California on July 11th, 2014.

Noel Vasquez/WireImage

Coming off good kid, m.A.A.d city, one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the decade, rapper Kendrick Lamar could have rested on his laurels. Instead he stole the spotlight on Big Sean's 2013 single "Control," going bonkers with wordplay for almost three minutes and calling out 11 emerging rappers by name. More than a dozen response songs turned up  and Billboard reported that Lamar gained more than 200,000 Twitter followers in the track's wake. Here's nine ways that this verse changed the game.

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - JULY 11: Kendrick Lamar performs at the Hennessy V.S x Shepard Fairey Launch Event at Create Nightclub on July 11, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/WireImage)

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It Cemented the Legacy of Producer No I.D.

Veteran Chicago producer and current Def Jam exec No I.D. has a long history of producing songs that manage to piss people off. Common's "I Used To Love h.e.r." sparked a beef with Ice Cube, and Jay-Z's "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)" had T-Pain and a nation of singing rappers catching feelings. "Control" cemented No I.D.'s legacy as a producer whose banging beats can help foreground a controversial message, as he's continued to nurture the careers of new acts like Vince Staples and his supergroup Cocaine 80s.

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - JULY 11: Kendrick Lamar performs at the Hennessy V.S x Shepard Fairey Launch Event at Create Nightclub on July 11, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/WireImage)

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It Made a Lot of People Not Want to Hear a Song Like “i” From Kendrick Lamar

This is one of the downsides. "Control" whipped Lamar's fanbase into such a frenzy about the aggressive side of his music that it seemed to poison the well for his next solo single. The Isley Brothers-sampling self-esteem anthem "i" was a Grammy-winning ray of sunshine and critically acclaimed, too, but it was the exact opposite of "Control" — which means it faced resistance from hip-hop heads and had weak support from urban radio. It only hit Number 11 on the R&B charts, while three different singles from good kid, M.A.A.D. City had hit Top 10.

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - JULY 11: Kendrick Lamar performs at the Hennessy V.S x Shepard Fairey Launch Event at Create Nightclub on July 11, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/WireImage)

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It Marked a Generation’s Growing Pains

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Big K.R.I.T. acknowledged that Kendrick's "Control" shout-out inspired him to pen the lyrically monstrous "Mt. Olympus." "[T]he "Control" thing happened and it was positivity there, because I understand hip-hop is competitive. But there was a lot of negativity that I'd never experienced before in my career. It was people that never even noticed my music and because of that, they prejudged what my music may have been. So with that, it kind of threw me into an overdrive to do a 'Mt. Olympus.' To start, 'Aight, with these records, I'ma go in even harder,' because now I know that Cadillactica might be the album that people may first hear from me. So I went back to my house. I went back to just recording in my room. I went back to writing as much as I could and not focusing on metaphors so much, but saying exactly what I meant to say and doing it my way."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Lil Wayne saw it as a reminder of where he is in the rap game. "If you hear an older athlete talk about the game — some of them keep it real and let you know, 'Man, I couldn't get out there with these young boys,'" he told Elliott Wilson for a #CRWN interview. "That's how I be lookin' at it now when I hear a Kendrick verse or something like that, I'll be like, 'Oh man, I'm tired of this, man.' I'm not about to be jumping out here talkin' 'bout, 'I'm the best,' I don't need nobody coming at my neck. None of that."

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - JULY 11: Kendrick Lamar performs at the Hennessy V.S x Shepard Fairey Launch Event at Create Nightclub on July 11, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/WireImage)

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The Best Rappers Defend Their Crowns Now

"Control" inspired responses from B.o.B ("How 2 Rap"), Joell Ortiz ("Outta Control"), Lupe Fiasco ("SLR 2"), Joey Bada$$ ("Killuminati Pt. II"), Meek Mill ("Ooh Kill 'Em") and many, many others. More than being the "Roxanne, Roxanne" of the new millennium, the subtext is that rappers responded to Lamar with actual songs and freestyles. Twitter rants, YouTube threats and random keyboard dissing no longer sufficed.    

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