Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Kendrick Lamar, Drake Perpetuate Long-Standing Rap Beef

Editor’s note: While I am excited to write this piece, as it is a topic that has taken up a small part of my brain, I urge readers to remember — All eyes on Rafah. Israel is beginning its ground invasion of Rafah, and we must not get distracted from fighting for every single Palestinian who is in danger. If we can keep up with pop culture, we can support and donate aid to those in Rafah in need. We must never stop fighting for Palestinians. 

Rap battles have always been at the center of the rap industry. They are often used as tools to address and/or squash beef between two artists while also engaging with their respective fan bases. Rap beef can even jump-start an artist’s career or be a turning point. In the last week, two artists’ hatred for each other has blown up on social media, with many calling it the biggest conflict in recent rap history. Aubrey Drake Graham, a.k.a. Drake, and Kendrick Lamar Duckworth have truly shown in the last week what it means to hate someone. 

For context, the artists never liked each other, but initially — on the surface, at least — it seemed like there was some love. Drake took Lamar on his first tour with A$AP Rocky, and Lamar even collaborated on a couple of songs at the beginning of the 2010s, with Drake releasing the 2011 “Buried Alive Interlude” and Lamar releasing “Poetic Justice.” 

However, things quickly started to unravel. Lamar collaborated on Big Sean’s song “Control”, where he challenged many of his peers — one of which included Drake. While many of the rappers mentioned responded in good faith, Drake did not. Lamar’s song featured lyrics such as “I got love for you all, but I’m trying to murder you.” Drake later responded to the jab, saying in an interview, “I know good and well that Kendrick’s not murdering me, at all, on any platform.” 

So, how did we get here? The release of “First Person Shooter” by Drake and J. Cole on Oct. 31 was the spark to ignite the fire. The song highlights the hip-hop community’s agreement that J. Cole, Drake, and Lamar are currently the top three rappers on the mainstream hip-hop scene. In “First Person Shooter,” J. Cole attempts to cement himself as the number one, rapping “Love when they argue the hardest MC, is it K-Dot? Is it Aubrey? Or me? We the big three like we started a league, but right now, I feel like Muhammad Ali.”

Kendrick did not mess with this. On March 22, Lamar released “Like That,” in which he clearly disses and calls out “First Person Shooter” by name. His biggest call out was that there is no big three, it’s just him. He raps “Motherfuck the big three, n— it’s just big me, n— bum,” making it clear that he did not like being placed in the same category as J. Cole and especially Drake. He then expands, stating that “Prince outlived Mike Jack,” implying that he will outlive both rappers’ legacies, cementing himself as the true rap legend in the industry. 

Following this, after releasing the diss track “7 Minute Drill,” J. Cole apologized publicly to Kendrick while on tour, stating that the song and the beef itself wasn’t sitting right with his spirit and that he hoped that Lamar would forgive him. While many called this cowardly at the time, it is now clear that J. Cole made one of the best career moves ever. 

Drake, however, wasn’t finished. On April 13, Drake released the song “Push Ups,” which was later premiered by DJ Akademiks. In this song, Drake tells Lamar, “You ain’t in no big three, SZA got you wiped down, Travis got you wiped down, Savage got you wiped down,” stating that Lamar doesn’t come close to other artists in the industry. On April 24, Drake released another song, “Taylor Made Freestyle,” where he used AI to replicate the voices of Tupac and Snoop Dogg. Drake claimed that Lamar couldn’t respond to his diss track due to Taylor Swift dropping the album The Tortured Poets Department.  Tupac’s estate threatened Drake, causing the song to be taken off of social media. 

On April 30, things became more serious. Lamar released the six-and-a-half minute track “Euphoria,” which shares a title with the HBO series that Drake is an executive producer on. In this track, he unleashes insult upon insult at Drake. Lamar goes after Drake’s parenting, his rap skills, his appearance, his proximity to Blackness, and even his use of AI. Lamar makes it clear: “I hate the way that you walk, the way that you talk, I hate the way that you dress, I hate the way you sneak diss, if I catch flight, it’s gon’ be direct.”

Lamar wasn’t finished, dropping a follow-up song, “6:16 in LA,” which not only goes after Drake again but also after the people he associates with. Lamar states, “You must be a terrible person, everyone inside your team is whispering that you deserve it.” Many thought Drake’s career was finished. Lamar’s two tracks were scathing, and in that moment the beef not only became more popularized but also more real. 

However, Drake wasn’t giving up without a fight and, on May 3, came out with “Family Matters,” an eight-minute response to not only refute the claims but accuse Kendrick of abusing his longtime partner Whitney Alford. He says, “When you put your hands on your girl, is it self-defense ’cause she bigger than you?” 

Less than an hour later, Lamar dropped “Meet the Grahams,” shocking the entire internet. Keeping with the theme of talking about their family and personal lives, Lamar starts off by speaking to Drake’s son Adonis, rapping “Dear Adonis, I’m sorry that that man is your father, let me be honest. It takes a man to be a man, your dad is not responsive. I look at him and wish your grandpa woulda wore a condom, I’m sorry that you gotta grow up and then stand behind him.” He then goes on to speak to Drake’s parents, shaming Drake’s father for the way he raised him and telling his mother that he thinks men like Drake should die. One thing that has set Lamar apart as an artist and made him the obvious victor is his conviction and belief that Drake is everything wrong with Hollywood. Lamar ends “Meet the Grahams” by chastising Drake for all the lies he has said about his life, from masking his accent to covering up having a daughter. This echoing of lies is haunting and almost holy as Lamar passes judgment on a man who has done nothing but sin in his life. 

If  “Meet the Grahams” was the final nail in the coffin, “Not Like Us” was Lamar’s victory dance on his grave. From the lines “Say, Drake, I hear you like em’ young,” speaking to the pedophile allegations harped on in previous songs, to “Tryna strike a chord and it’s probably A minor,” you can’t help but laugh at the lengths Lamar has gone to make sure that Drake stays down. 

Of course, Drake didn’t take note and recently released “The Heart Part 6,” which, in my opinion, was a desperate attempt to gain back some credibility as an artist. 

Overall, Drake and Lamar’s beef is something that the hip-hop industry will not forget anytime soon. Metro Boomin, for example, recently produced a “BBL Drizzy” beat and invited fans to rap over it, spurring a whole new level of humiliation for Drake. While this was entertaining to watch unfold, I am hoping that this rap beef stays inside the confines of music and doesn’t cross the line we can’t come back from.  It was recently reported that Drake’s house was shot at and his security guard landed in the hospital. I hope that, if the allegations and beef are to continue, we get to hear it in the music and not the news.

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