Late last night, Funkmaster Flex dropped a bomb on the hip-hop world. Songs by Big Sean don’t often stop gravity, but “Control,” which debuted on Hot 97’s “Funk Flex Show,” included a verse from Kendrick Lamar in which he calmly stabs all of his friends by poking them through the chest: “I’m usually homeboys with the same n****s I’m rhyming with / But this is hip hop and them n****s should know what time it is / And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale, Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electron‘, Tyler, Mac Miller / I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you n****s / Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you n****s.”
For the participants involved, all art forms have a competitive undertone to them, hip-hop more than most. But it’s hard to foster competition when you’re friends with your fellow artists. Kendrick has worked with just about everyone name-checked in that verse. (As for the others, he’s got a forthcoming track with Pusha T and it’s been reported he’s going on tour with Tyler, the Creator.) With that in mind, we wanted to see who actually came out on top in Kendrick’s many collaborations.
Track: “Temptation,” 2011
Collaborated with: J. Cole
Best verse: Kendrick Lamar. In an interview, J. Cole himself acknowledged being bested, saying that, if not for time, he would’ve changed his verse up. Can’t argue with that.
Track: “They Ready,” DJ Khaled’s Kiss the Ring, 2012
Collaborated with: Big KRIT
Best verse: Kendrick Lamar, who says, “Now pick up my coat — you let that motherfucker drag like RuPaul, I’ll drag your ass to the floor.” Perfect.
Track: “Power Circle,” MMG’s Self Made Vol. 2, 2012
Collaborated with: Wale
Best verse: Kendrick Lamar, who joins the MMG gang and, while outshined by Gunplay, runs a step or two ahead of what might be Wale’s best effort.
Track: “A1 Everything,” Meek Mill’s Dreamchasers 2, 2012
Collaborated with: Meek Mill
Best verse: Meek Mill, who seems far more comfortable on this SykSense beat. Kendrick fills up his time with gun-shot sounds. His best line, a reference to “power steering” a girl, will be reused in “Poetic Justice.”
Track: “1 Train,” A$AP Rocky’s Long. Live. A$AP, 2012
Collaborated with: A$AP Rocky
Best verse: Kendrick Lamar, who takes out Rocky like he brought guns to a fist fight.
Track: “Poetic Justice,” Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, 2012
Collaborated with: Drake
Best verse: Kendrick Lamar, although it’s close. Who’s better at talking to teary-eyed women than Drake? It’s only decided when Kendrick swoops in with the third verse, writing Facebook-ready lines like, “A fatal attraction is common / And what we have in common is pain.”
Track: “100,” Big Sean’s Detroit, 2012
Collaborated with: Big Sean
Best verse: Big Sean, surprisingly! Kendrick’s verse is cryptic, but cryptic isn’t deep. Sean’s, however, is heartfelt and quote-heavy. Not that it matters much: Royce Da 5’9 makes mince meat of them both.
Track: “Control (HOF),” Unreleased, 2013
Collaborated with: Jay Electronica
Best verse: Kendrick Lamar, whose verse makes you forget that Jay Elec even popped his head out of the ground. It’s run-of-the-mill Jay Electronica, in which he spins Five Percenter tales; it’s good, it’s fine, but completely overshadowed. As Spin’s Jordan Sargent said on Twitter, “Jay Electronica’s verse is like when you had to do a presentation in class and the person before you had the detailed 35 slide powerpoint.”
Track: “Fight the Feeling,” Mac Miller’s “Macadelic, 2012
Collaborated with: Mac Miller
Best verse: Kendrick Lamar. While Mac name-checks Mars Blackmon, Kendrick says, “You won’t hear it, even if your ears was pierced by Beats by Dre.” Unfair.
Track: “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe (Official Remix),” Unreleased, 2013
Collaborated with: Jay Z
Best verse: Kendrick Lamar … or Jay Z … no, Kendrick. Because even though Jay waits, waits, waits for you to name someone better than him, Kendrick’s third verse is right there.