Did Jay Rock Murder Kendrick on “Money Trees”? An Absurdly Detailed Investigation
An article about a RefinedHype article? Fuck yes an article about a RefinedHype article.
Because RefinedHype Nation is the greatest, Lucas' recent "Did Big Sean Really Say He Can Out Rap Anyone?" article took a sharp detour in the comment section after an anonymous guest, John Blaze and Tino brought up the idea of Jay Rock out rapping Kendrick Lamar on "Money Trees".
Goddamn then. Did Jay really out rap Kendrick on his own shit? What does "out rap" even really mean? Are there different degrees of getting out rapped? What's the difference between getting out rapped and getting murdered? To whit, did Kendrick get murdered on "Money Trees"? All questions that deserve their own article, so I wrote it.
Ok, before we really do this thing, let's set the proverbial table. Thinking about "Money Trees" has really forced me to define how to compare verses on songs. I think any competition falls into three categories.
1) Fucking Murdered on Your Own Shit
A rapper dropped a guest verse on another rapper's song that was so clearly and definitively better than the primary artist, the guest verse is all anyone wants to talk about. When you think of that song, all you think about is the guest verse. If someone did a remix that completely cut out the primary rapper's verse(s), you'd prefer it to the original. You get the picture.
To date, one of the most famous examples is Eminem on Jay-Z' "Renegade". While I think Jay got more "got" than "murdered" (more on that later), Nas famously said to Jay "Eminem murdered you on your own shit," which is where the phrase really got popularized, and from the second the beat hits, it just feels like an Eminem song.
Less controversially, I always think about Diddy's "Last Night" - Keyshia Cole murdered him on that shit. Take Diddy off that song, it's still a hit. Take Keyshia's hook and verse off, motherfucking no one wants to listen to "Last Night". I don't think Diddy cares, he wants a hit way more than he wants to be thought of as a great artist, but still, he got First 48ed on his own shit.
(Related, I wrote an entire "Kendrick Lamar Murdered You On Your Own Shit" collection, which I almost want to rewrite in light of this new framework.)
2) Got Got
This is really the category that gets overlooked. It's either "you got murdered on your own shit" or "you had the best verse on your own shit", which doesn't acknowledge all the grey area that can fall in between. Sometimes a rapper doesn't get murdered, they just get beat up a bit, maybe lightly slapped around, maybe the guest verse just generally kind of stares them down intimidatingly.
Maybe because it's more recent, "In the A" immediately comes to mind. It's more of a posse "everyone gets a verse" cut than more traditional "guest verse on someone's track" song, but that actually makes it better for comparison's sake.
I've written about how that song feels like a real landmark in the "Luda's fallen off" argument, but I don't think Luda got murdered. He definitely had the weakest verse out of he, Big Boi and T.I., but he also came through enough to avoid a chalk outline. Big and Tip just gave him a rap wedgie, stole his Twinkie from his lunchbox and refused to give it back. He got got.
3) Dope on Dope
Another category that doesn't really get talked about. Sometimes there just isn't a clearly better verse. Sometimes a guest rapper comes in and drops a dope verse that matches the dope verse from the primary rapper, making it a dope song. For rap kicks we might still debate who did it best, but really, we're just splitting hairs. If someone did have the better verse, the difference is negligible.
Because it got mentioned in that same Big Sean article that sparked this, let's take "Cartoons & Cereal". I'm fully prepared to argue that Gunplay's verse on "Cartoons" was one of the best of the year, and one of the most under-rated over the last few years. But Kendrick fucking crushed that his shit too: " House lick went down perfect / Two shots to the head he deserved it / I overheard it hit my bed with a bowl and remote control / Dark Wing Duck lost service / Mama said I'd better duck, she's nervous / Drama all up in the cut, hit the curtains / I mean don't intervene with no gun machine..."
Sweet baby jesus that's dope, just like Gunplay's verse is dope. It's dope on dope.
Ok, now that I've laid down the groundwork, we're finally ready to listen to "Money Trees" itself. I know we've all heard it 100 times already, but let's try to hear it was as fresh of an ear as possible:
Fuck......this is still as hard as it was when the topic first came up in the comments.
Now, I want to acknowledge that there's an inherent Kendrick Lamar bias for me. He's one of my favorite rappers right now, if not outright my favorite rappers, and he's murdered (or got got) so many people on their own shit, it just feels weird to say he got murdered (or got got) on his shit. But if I'm going to avoid the dreaded stan status, I have to acknowledge he's not infallible, he can get got, and be able to admit when he does.
Still.....I just don't think I can say he got murdered. Going back to what getting murdered sounds like, at no point do you forget "Money Trees" is a Kendrick Lamar song. As hard as Jay Rock crushes the mic, I don't think you'd want to listen to just his verse in isolation; his shit actually sounds best placed next to Kendrick's work.
That brings up another problem/complication; what exactly are we comparing? Something like "In the A" is easier to compare and contrast since each rapper gets one verse, and the chorus is so simple/stripped down it doesn't sway things either way. By contrast, on "Money Trees" Kendrick handles two verses and the chorus - and the chorus is the best work he does on the song. Plus, if you came away with anything from "Money Trees", you came away with "ya bish", right? That's what I heard people quote constantly, and what Jay incorporates into his own verse. That has to count for something.
So if we're talking about Jay Rock's verse vs. everything Kendrick does on "Money Trees", I have to say dope on dope. But, over the course of writing this I really dug into Jay Rock's verse. I'd always paid attention to it, but today I really listened to it, really marinated on it. If we're strictly talking Jay's verse vs. one of Kendrick's verses (either one, pick one)....man, this shit it tough...yeah, I think I'm willing to say Kendrick got got. Murdered? No? Got? Ummmmmm......yes.
Alright RefinedHype Nation, I think that's the incredibly detailed, intricately over-thought response to rap-related question you've become used to on RefinedHype. Let's do our best to sort this shit out in the comments. I'm hoping the "Murdered/Got Got/Dope" on Dope framework makes all of these "best verse?" conversations easier to have, and more useful.
p.s. Because I know there's a "Why do you have to compare them, you're obviously trying to start beef within TDE" contingent out there, shut up. Believe it or not, it's completely possible for intelligent people to have complex conversations that compare two rappers while still fully appreciating both of them. If anything, this article has made me appreciate Kendrick, Jay Rock and "Money Trees" even more.
p.p.s. I can't end this without bring up Kanye's "It's a song with Wayne so you know it's gonna melt / but I ain't fittin to have you murder me like everybody else" on the "Lollipop (Remix)", which has to be one of the only times a rapper has ever explicitly brought up murdering someone/getting murdered on a guest verse.