Editor: Tef Poe is an artist from St. Louis city. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His project The Hero Killer was released on January 21 and will be followed up by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For the Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get The Hero Killer here.
Last week you had to be sleeping under a rock to escape the majesty of Kendrick Lamar's critically acclaimed and confrontational verse on Big Sean's record "Control." The players on this one look great on paper -- we all know any real hip-hop head would jump at the opportunity to hear K.Dot on a track with Jay Electronica and Big Sean. Kendrick spit a verse calling out the top rappers in the industry at the current moment.
He caught everyone completely off guard and showcased a level of skill and hunger that hasn't been seen on a high profiled hip-hop collaboration of this level since the early days of the initial Slaughterhouse collabo's. Very few moments in hip-hop share space with this one in my mind. I think about when I first heard Jay Z's Blueprint album and his diss record toward Nas and Mobb Deep. I think about when I heard Nas' response and the entire planet froze.
I knew these moments were historical. When I heard Kendrick's verse I called my manager at five in the morning. We both knew this was historical. My high school friend Rated R knows he can expect a phone call from me anytime anything of this magnitude happens in hip-hop. We've always stopped whatever we're doing to discuss things like this when they take place. I called him right after the phone call with my manager and he answered the phone instantly. I didn't even have to explain to him why. He already knew, and we spent the first two minutes of the conversation laughing and talking about how awesome Kendrick's verse was. From there we predicted who would respond first. We predicted none of the names mentioned in the verse would jump into the water.
On paper the names listed as the features on this track instantly make jaws drop and almost force you to listen to the song. The fact that No I.D. produced the track actually makes me smile because he's oddly slept on for some reason, even though many consider him one of the best hip-hop producers alive. His beats breed classics and this scenario was no different. It's an excellent set up for what would be a ground-shaking collaboration.
The problem with hip-hop collaborations today resides in the fact that they aren't really unique and emcee's often don't try to chew each others' heads off like they did in the days of old. So the listeners are left with a lackluster version of "We Are The World" as the emcee's taunt us about how marvelous their lifestyle is. Jay-Z and Biggie Smallz understood the science of approaching high-profiled collaborations. The motive is simple: Lyrically speaking, it's kill or be killed. But this notion died when collaborating with emcees became more about joining powers to molest Ascap and suck the life out of any type of radio BDS in the land of Clear Channel. So basically now it's all about collabing for the sake of getting a hit a record.
Everyone claims to be the best but no one wants to put their skill set on the line and actually prove it. I was at the studio working late last week when Sean released this track. Tech Supreme played it right before our session ended and I told him we just heard one of the best verses of all times. Even if the bars in this verse were lackluster, the audacity represents a new generation checking in on the age-old feud for the West coast to reclaim its warranted position as leaders of the culture. A kid from Compton had one of the top selling albums of the year. He also claimed to be the "King of New York" on a track. People like Nas, Biggie, Jay-Z, Raekwon and Method Man fought with vigilance to protect this title. Snoop Dogg and his crew Dogg Pound made a classic video knocking over the buildings of NYC in the 90's. Jay-Z has a famous punchline referencing the situation many years after the fact when tensions died down: "While y'all player hate we in the upper millions / Whats the dealings? / It's like New York's been soft ever since Snoop came through and crushed the buildings." These bars are still controversial in certain barber shop hip-hop conversations.
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