Recently, inspired by the popularity of Kendrick Lamar‘s feature on Big Sean‘s latest track, “Control,” there have been a number of tracks released sampling the song, some being diss tracks, largely being rappers giving themselves pats on the back about their skills and airing dirty laundry for other to hear. The tracks bring up the past and the present, call out others to respond, and there’s just a whole bunch of mouth running.
Obviously this isn’t the first time rappers release music in response to other rappers or emcees, and it normally doesn’t garner that much attention outside of the hip-hop scene. But what makes this one significant are the stronger insinuations against Simon D, Dynamic Duo, and Amoeba Culture, along with the implications of E-Sens‘ contribution to the chaos.
Kendrick Lamar’s feature on “Control” is aggressive. He mentions several other rappers, which ones are on his level, which ones have to watch out. The overlying takeaway from the verse in question isn’t so much that Lamar is trying to start some mean-spirited battle, but rather to raise the bar and competition in the rap field. You don’t see rappers negatively mentioning the people they’re rhyming with very often, but rather than seeming directly insulting, the verse Lamar puts out is honest and speaks of his own determination to do well.
Warning: Profanity and vulgar language ahead.
1. Swings Starts It All
Meanwhile, in South Korea, Swings starts off the whole incident with his track, “King Swings.” Swings is under Brand New Music and Just Music Entertainment and a former member of Simon D’s crew, Illest Konfusion. He was also active on Mnet‘s Show Me the Money 2, the network’s survival show with rappers. He’s known for his punchlines in his raps, or those lines in a rap that drive a point home the best, usually by insulting another with wit or somehow by metaphor or simile. “King Swings” draws heavy inspiration from Lamar, mainly in through his attempt to rile up competition in the K-hip hop scene. Where it gets ugly is with the specific mentions of the crews Buckwilds and Do’main:
Buckwilds and Do’main have too many members like Wu Tang
I’m still a new thing if I made my lyrics into a book, it’d be thicker and the weight of the paper would be heavier than all of yours combined
I don’t hate you, I just don’t like your certain hyung
Sure, I’m sorry so now follow me through rap
Except the fucking rookies because y’all are just fucking rookies
When I was a rookie, I wasn’t like you guys so step it up
More positive mentions go out to Illionaire, in particular Dok2 (Gonzo), along with E-Sens, Verbal Jint (VJ), and San-E.
2. Direct Responses to Swings: Ugly Duck and TakeOne
Answering Swings’ track, there have been multiple responses, but the more significant and direct ones were from Ugly Duck of Buckwilds and TakeOne of Buckwilds and Do’main, signed under Grandline Entertainment.
Ugly Duck’s track, “Ctrl + Alt + Del *2,” is a direct diss of Swings. His track expresses his frustration at how Swings has changed, becoming someone that in the past he’d ridicule. He almost mentions how being on broadcast (Show Me the Money 2) and subsequently gaining some recognition is something Swings seems to like, which has also changed his personality. People specifically mentioned that you may have an interest in are J-Tong, leader of Buckwilds and somewhat under Amoeba Culture: the company provides him with album support. Simon D helped make the connection for J-Tong to get the support. The lyrics mention a rift with Simon D, which may explain why Swings ended up leaving Illest Konfusion, Simon D’s crew. Excerpts of the lyrics are below.
And if you’re trying to reference someone, do it straightforward and right,
That “Jtong! Hella hates me, Swings!” instead of “Now I’m King! Swings! So don’t hate me as your hyung!”
You had a rift with Ssam D (Simon D) for a while and now what?
You apologize suddenly and request for him to guest in Just Jam the next day
I understand your motives but aren’t you slightly even embarrassed?
Just because you were on broadcast for a while, it seems that you get a lot of functions calling in for you to perform for?
You seem to enjoy the fact that people recognize you now, huh?
Why don’t you spend that time picking up your pride from the scripted Show Me the Money
TakeOne’s track, “Recontrol,” starts off by talking broader terms, how popularity doesn’t guarantee quality of music, how Verbal Jint and San-E (the ones Swings sticks with) changed their style too and have found themselves high on the charts. Though he responds back to Swings — mentioning too how he changed after Show Me the Money 2, how he’s more of a commercial rapper for going on board with Mnet, and how money doesn’t necessarily equate to success — the majority of his lyrics talk more about what K-hip-hop should be (see below).
Also, that’s right, I’m a part of Buckwilds and Do’main
We’re just friends but we don’t pursue music with a business approach
Money doesn’t promote someone superior to others among rappers
“Are you considered successful just because you put out a lot of music?” is the question I want to ask
Before you make sarcastic remarks about how we’re lazy, think about making an impact in history of hip hop; think of success as something you achieve in the next step up
Now that, that’s the right way to create rivalry
If you fight with money and popularity, then you’re rivaling idols
We’re not in a rush because we’re waiting for the time when we’re ready
3. Indirect Responses to Swings: Deepflow and E-Sens
Deepflow of the Vismajor Crew‘s “Self Control” takes a more peaceful route, all for rivalry but not so much for war. His rap starts off more vague before getting into more meaty aspects, mourning the current state of rap (see lyrics here) and taking a small dig at Zico and Jay Park.
But E-Sens drops a huge bomb with his set, “You Can’t Control Me.” Up until his release, most of the tracks released were jabs at one another about style, about who’s actually good, what makes up a good artist, what K-hip-hop should actually be. E-Sens brings in a more material side, fully intending to call out his former company and company seniors. There’s an excerpt below, but check out the lyrics that build up to this point as well.
Are you curious as to what kind of bullying they did?
Even the blood of a fox with his mouth shut and eyes closed will broil
I’m washing away the makeup that they caked on my face which took me 2 years at minimum
If you hear this, then answer me, Gaeko
Treat me like how you did in the past 5 years I was under the company
Don’t back out now as this is the last respect for me
Since you already rejected the offer, let’s battle as soldier to soldier
Cosplaying as a nice person – fuck that, that’s dirty
Be honest when you’re speaking because you’re cheap
No matter how much I think of it, I was a sub during the time Dynamic Duo enlisted
They used the idea of respecting a junior so explain to me now, including your retired rap beside you
To the rest of of the fuckers, I was going to pen it but it’d be a waste of ink
Everyone probably understood anyway so pass
Give you 1 million? Amoeba Culture, kiss my ass
You’ll probably do it again with the media play since it’s what you’re good at
You’ll frame me as the ungrateful fucker
Clearly this parting between E-Sens and Amoeba didn’t go as smoothly as it may have seemed. E-Sens calls out Gaeko in particular, relegating Choiza to the side as a “has-been.” He also brings up unfavorable times as a part of Amoeba Culture and a demand of ~$900,000 by the company, most likely to execute some media play during his marijuana scandal or for whatever happened in his contract. In addition, there are strong insinuations that E-Sens perhaps wasn’t able to do the music he wanted to because it wasn’t as media friendly as the image Supreme Team developed. There’s a lot here to answer for.
4. Gaeko’s Response: “I Can Control You”
This series of events sounds like a telenovela. Now imagine what would happen if this was all said face-to-face. Multiple others — Yasu, X Electro, Nafla, etc. — released tracks before Gaeko, with Swings’ second largely targeting Simon D, but stay tuned for more tracks (and controversy) in the second part. Instead, let’s move on to Gaeko, who despite probably preparing for Kcon, found E-Sens’ attack enough to require a response as soon as possible. Gaeko largely focuses on E-Sens’ marijuana scandal, which is a bit of a pity since it doesn’t address any of the real allegations made in “You Can’t Control Me.”
Look at the responses on your rap that you made sober: “This fucker’s on something”
Look at the photo on Naver with your head hung low: “He smoked something”
You’re basically asking for the company to clean up after your shit
As if you’re turning your back on Kakao Talk and betraying the hyung who’s held everything in
Your mouth is always always pent and your throat is hoarse after performing one track
You said you’re doing this for the sake of those around me tired of you wearing a cynical smile and being pessmism but let’s get this straight asshole, you made more than I did as our sub
Even ten years from now, Primary‘s ‘Poison’ will probably be your representative track
Or maybe you’ll be remembered as “ah, the kid who dissed Gaeko,” “the kid who made the critical mistake in digging his own grave and burying himself in it,” or “the kid who retired without having done much”
Soldier to soldier, don’t kid around with me. I am the king so why don’t you go on in dissing cunts at home
What do you think you can do, you bum.
What do you think you can do when you’ll be living in prison with no windows because I’ll punish you
Up until this point, it’s obvious there’s some type of bad blood that easily creates this E-Sens versus Amoeba Culture situation: it doesn’t get more obvious than “Amoeba Culture, kiss my ass.” Everything is hidden in lyrics, creating more questions while answering questions that weren’t very obvious in the first place. As an observer, there’s no clear side to take. E-Sens is almost like the underdog with his accusations, but he simultaneously isn’t completely free of mistakes either. Gaeko’s track is inadequate when taken as a direct response to E-Sens’ in that it only assassinates E-Sens’ character, not so much provide any new information in answer to the accusations. Obviously, a response was expected to this, and released in the form of E-Sens’ “True Story,” to be discussed in the next post.
As this is not the clean and pristine world of idols, staying quiet about an incident doesn’t fly over well. The only way to respond is to do it quickly and with sufficient wit to prove yourself. With this Kendrick Lamar fever seemingly motivating everyone, there’s no telling how many other names are going to release their own tracks to make their own statements.
Already there are more tracks to look at: there are second tracks for Swings and Ugly Duck to hear. Simon D released his own “Control” referencing E-Sens and Amoeba Culture, but mostly in response to Swings, and there’s no telling who else is going to join. While that is the main point of issue — the E-Sens/Simon D/Dynamic Duo situation — there are others putting out their own, unrelated tracks such as i11evn and Dead’P, both bring more perspectives in K-hip-hop.
Stick around for the second installment which will address developments, i.e. E-Sens and Simon D, and include Swings’ second attack and Ugly Duck’s response!