Kendrick Lamar's Seven MCs

Only in hip-hop is a desire to crush the competition considered disrespect.

Here's Vibe assessing the responses to Kendrick Lamar's recent battlecry, while Buzzfeed helps you decide whether you should speak up or just keep K-Dot's name out your mouth. I'm mildly impressed with the responses, though I mostly think MCs are simply making Kendrick's point.

I should say from the jump that I think beef rap is overrated and mostly stands out on gossip points. I found "No Vaseline" amusing, but it was never transformative in the way "Bird In Hand" "Summer Vacation" or "Colorblind" (My God, "Colorblind") was. Likewise I don't think "Ether" makes my top ten of Nas' greatest, and I would take "Feelin' It," "You Must Love Me," "Dead Presidents II," "Neva Change," "Threat" and an assortment of other Jay-Z tracks before I got to "The Takeover." The only really dis song I truly love is the one that everyone else loves--"The Bridge Is Over."

So there's that. You are talking to man with significant bias. Nevertheless, I view Kendrick's verse as an epilogue for Good Kid, and (if he's lucky) a prologue for everything next. Even the idea of taking disrespect feels beside the point. In what creative field do artists not feel as though they are trying to end all competition, even the artists they are friendly with? Were the MCs of Wu not competing with each other? Did Busta not feel pressure to be the best when he ran the anchor leg of "Scenario?" Did he not basically obliterate everyone else on the track? I must think that Viola Davis was trying to blow Meryl Streep away. ("Sister you ain't going against no man in a robe and win.") I think Fitzgerald, Ellison and Hemingway were all trying kill every author in their vicinity. It's certainly the case in business. Only in hip-hop (where whole magazines are dedicated to who doesn't like who) is this disrespect.

My hope is that there are young artists out there who are inspired, not simply to hop in the booth and hop out, but to do something big and grand. A lot of folks are excited about this new era of competition. I'm not sure we have one yet.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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