“My fans can’t wait for me to son your punk ass,” K. Dot scowls after a beat change introduces the second verse. But who is Kendrick talking about, and why? Here are some theories.
Kendrick Lamar and Big Sean seemed to have a great working relationship in the past, but the consensus so far seems to be that Sean Don is the primary target here. It may date back to August 2013, when Sean released “Control” and saw the Internet go ablaze with Kendrick’s fiery verse that called out names (including Sean’s himself) while challenging them to keep up with his standard. Sean maintained that the two were copacetic and that he was confident in his own verse, but after listeners dismissed Sean’s raps on his own song, one wonders if tensions were raised.
In 2015, Sean dropped a freestyle to Beyonce’s “Me, Myself, and I” instrumental and shade was thrown. “Y’all bragging about so and so, like, oh he really it? The new nigga in rap? Well, can he really spit?” he asks. “Or do he just hide behind the skits like like half of these rappers do, and then y’all f--king go and praise him in this bitch like they the savior of this shit.” On “No More Interviews,” the shots continued: “I can’t lie like I like this shit like I usually do / I’m just not impressed by you niggas rapping fast / who sound one big asthma attack but trash when I’m rapping it back / who you put in your top five, and claim they the savior of rap.” What other rapper has been praised as rap’s savior and used skits as notably as Kendrick so deftly did on good kid, m.A.A.d city?
On “The Heart Part 4,” Kendrick shoots back. He mocks Big Sean’s signature ad lib by calling him a “scared lil’ bitch” and warns him to take accountability when he’s confronted. He then imitates Sean’s nasally voice - one of his detractors’ main criticisms - while acting out what he imagines would be Sean’s reaction. “Oh I was just playing with you K-Dot, c’mon, you know a nigga rock with you, bro,” he teases. He also raps, “Hoe, Jay Z hall of fame, sit your punk ass down / so that means you ain’t bigger than rapping.” Sean’s sophomore album was titled Hall of Fame and Jay Z’s Roc Nation manages Sean’s career. Also, upon the release of Sean’s new album I Decided., Jay gifted Sean a coveted Roc-A-Fella chain. Kendrick seems to be saying that Sean and Hov don’t belong in the same sentence. And with the constant wordplay around “big” and “little” while speaking about his nameless foe, it looks like Sean is the primary target here.
Kendrick has also been trading subliminal barbs with Drake for a few years now, so it’s possible that he’s talking about him as well. Drake seemed to take Kendrick’s mention of his name in “Control” personally, since he gave Kendrick a song on Take Care and brought him on tour. But when “Control” was brought up in an interview with Elliott Wilson, Drake dismissed the song as “a moment” while saying that his own music would last ten years down the line. He seemed to diss Kendrick again on Nothing Was The Same highlight “The Language.” “I don’t know why they been lying, but yo shit is not that inspiring,” Drake mused. Kendrick responded with a brief clapback during his freestyle at the BET Hip-Hop Awards that cleverly used Drake’s album title. “Nothing was the same since ‘Control’ and tucked a sensitive rapper back in his pajama clothes,” he teased.
After Meek Mill exposed Drake’s usage of co-writers for his rhymes, the lyric on Kendrick’s previously-released “King Kunta” seemed to be targeted at Drizzy. “A rapper with a ghostwriter? What the f--k happened?," he rapped. “I swore I wouldn’t tell / a bunch of y’all sharing bars like you’ve got the bottom bunk in a two-man cell.” The intro to “The Heart Part 4” seems to have a similar reference, but with a simple, sinister warning. “Don’t tell a lie on me, I won’t tell the truth ‘bout you.” Maybe Kendrick has even more definitive evidence with Drake’s shadowy writing credits. Or maybe he has dirt on Big Sean.
Either way, 2017 has been a year where Remy Ma and Rick Ross left no room for questions in their diss tracks. Maybe that will increase pressure for Kendrick, Drake and Sean to mention each other by name?
Is there anyone else you think Kendrick could be dissing on “The Heart Part 4?” If it comes down to it, who would win if Kendrick lyrically squared up with either of them?