Here’s one of the stranger — and most strangely satisfying — remixes of the year. Justin Timberlake’s “TKO” was originally a workable but underwhelming second-tier 20/20 Experience single — just your average R&B-inflected dance-pop banger. Now it’s a hip-hop posse track on which JT barely features and a trio of top MCs show up to wreck shop over a barely tweaked version of Timbaland’s typically jittery beat. A$AP Rocky is there to do A$AP Rocky things, and Pusha T shows up at the end to make the Album Of The Year case for My Name Is My Name. But the most notable verse is the first, in which J. Cole responds to Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse, the one where K-Dot called out all his perceived rivals, playfully promised to destroy them, and riled up NYC traditionalists by declaring himself the king of New York.
J. Cole rightfully catches a lot of flak for being a particularly derivative A-List rapper — his Born Sinner singles sound like five-years-late Kanye retreads — but I have to hand it to the the guy here: He’s delivered one of the few respectable “Control” responses, albeit a few months after the media storm around the song died down. Cole cops Kendrick’s cadence to land a flurry of blows and reflect on how even his mother got swept up in the hype. As CoS points out, Cole and Kendrick have traditionally had each other’s backs, so this may just be playful ribbing, but as with the original “Control” verse, it’s nice to hear some pointed competition in rap, even lighthearted competition. Listen below.