Kendrick Lamar begins this influential verse with a warning to fellow artists, He inexplicitly sates that he is “about to go off”. He quickly dims the mood bringing up images of the Vietnam War and bombs dropped on innocent lives. He goes on to call out “these fake rappers” and revel over his own beats. Stating he is important like the pope and will continue to thrive as long as the music industry continues to provide the cash flow. Kendrick continues to attest to his greatness stating, “I’m the King of New York” by doing this he calls to the emotions of fellow NYC rappers calling for rebuttal.
Kendrick ties his music to an unstoppable force and further proposes his ties to the underground music scene, hinting at his old school method and traditions. He goes on to connect his lyrics to a major ESPN analyst, and reputable NFL coach attributing to his untamable career, while connecting his music to the sports community.
As the verse continues it touches on the social media status of today’s rappers. Being the more traditional rap star, Kendrick calls out these other stars on their over-obsessive social media use. This is very interesting because the verse relied heavily on the social media integration that followed-allowing rappers to voice their refutation.
Kendrick further voices his opinion on popular rap culture today and his dislike for trends such as taking molly (pure form of ecstasy) and its effect on turning rappers into “rich white girls looking for parties”. Kendrick essentially calls today’s rappers rich teen girls, naming Lindsey Lohan and Miley (presumed Cyrus) in particular. Kendrick again compares himself to legends in the music industry, stating the genius behind his lyrics is lost on the dull audience, again isolating him from the modern rap game.
Kendrick’s most influential lines come through closer to the end of the verse, naming in his opinion the top 5 living rappers: Eminem, Jigga, Nas, Andre 3000, and himself. He attests to the rap career claiming that modern day artists are preoccupied with designer clothing and less involved with the actual music. He exclaims that he has no grudge against other rappers but this is a competition and “everyone should know what it is”. This line hints on rap returning to its roots in the 90’s, and the rise of rap battle institutions such as the UK league “Don’t Flop”. He threatens, by name, the most known modern rappers, stating that he will “murder” them. He goes on to state that he will become so famous that their names will be lost.
Kendrick uses threats, emotional callouts, and all around great music to pass a statement onto the rap community. He effectively changes the rap game, drawing it back to its roots. By calling out the best of the best Kendrick forced a movement of good music and a change in the basis of modern day hip hop. He exclaims a bar has been set and challenges every rapper to meet it. He released this track at a time when rap battle popularity was climbing and the reaction was very much immediate spreading through social media. The verse was played over and over and famous rappers began to formulate their reactions, many of them becoming hit singles. By widely appealing to his audience for a rebuttal he creates more involved music and engages the entire rap community.