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Kendrick, Drake and where we go from here

You may have found the more annoying amongst us on campus obsessively talking about the spat between Kendrick Lamar and Drake over the past week (many of them may have been me). Two extremely large hip-hop stars going after one another would be news enough, but the amount of vitriol, bad blood and good music that has come out of this has led to an unprecedented amount of attention on the conflict. As someone invested in this, before I give any sort of opinion, here is a (somewhat biased) timeline of events from the start of this to now.

First of all, why do people (in particular, other rappers and hip-hop artists), not like Drake? There’s a number of reasons, starting with the fact that he has gotten a lot of criticism in the past for his habit of using ghostwriters in an industry where artists take immense pride in writing their own works. He was born solidly middle class in Toronto, but he makes himself seem like an American gangster in his videos or as though he had a tough upbringing where he really didn’t in an industry where many famous artists did grow up in poverty and hardship. All of this is compounded by his consistent inauthenticity. On many of his tracks, he will adopt affects and vocal styles  far removed from his home in Toronto, adding to the sense that nothing about him is real or relatable. He’s also been involved in a few scandals, but we’ll get to that later. This isn’t to say that he hasn’t made good (or at least popular) music. I mean, I still listen to “Hotline Bling” and  “God’s Plan.” It even resonates with other prominent figures, like legendary Cameroonian Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Francis Ngannou, who uses a Drake song as his walkout music. He is undeniably a massive figure in the music industry, despite doubts about how authentic he really is.

The feud started with J. Cole on the song “First Person Shooter,” released in Oct. 2023, where J. Cole refers to himself, Drake and Kendrick Lamar as the “Big Three” of rap. A few months later in March 2024, Kendrick Lamar was  featured on the song “Like That,” with Future and Metro Boomin dissing both Drake and J. Cole for trying to put the three of them in the same league. J. Cole then responded with a track that no longer exists by the name of “7 Minute Drill.” It no longer exists because J. Cole apologized for dissing Kendrick and promptly exited this whole conflict ahead of the real escalation. He was actually found by a fan on a beach enjoying the sunset later (this is not a joke and did in fact happen. He appears to be enjoying a quiet time amidst the following events).

However, Drake had different ideas and his song responding to Kendrick, “Push-Ups,” dropped in the next month, April. At this point, the conflict is still civil, with Drake mostly making fun of Kendrick’s height and shoe size. This song wasn’t focused entirely on Kendrick either, as Drake also dissed  producer Metro Boomin and other artists like Future and The Weeknd. Things started to heat up with Drake’s second response, “Taylor Made Freestyle” released on Apr. 24, which caught heat because Drake used AI to replicate the voice of legendary rapper Tupac. You might be wondering where this song is. Well, since Tupac’s estate threatened to sue over the rapper’s inclusion on the track, which they had not approved, Drake walked it back and scrubbed it from all platforms. 

Kendrick finally responded with his much acclaimed “Euphoria” on Apr. 30. Many of the criticisms that I mentioned about Drake feature prominently in the lyrics: his inauthenticity, Drake’s use of Tupac’s voice via AI, his fashion sense and the skeletons lurking in Drake’s closet. There are multiple allusions in the song to more dirt that Kendrick has on Drake that he won’t spill unless Drake chooses to escalate the conflict between them. One part of the song that was particularly brutal were the verses about Drake’s son Adonis. Drake was involved in a different beef with another rapper, Pusha T, back in 2018. Pusha T revealed that Drake was hiding a secret child (allegedly leading to the loss of a massive Adidas deal for Drake). Kendrick brings this up in “Euphoria,” talking about how Kendrick spends time taking care of his children, something Drake doesn’t seem to know much about. 

This is then followed closely by Kendrick’s “6:16 in LA” (as in literally three days afterwards, at 6:16 a.m. no less), where he takes aim at Drake’s friend group and label OVO, saying that he has a mole in his group feeding him information. The beef escalated greatly with Drake’s next track, “Family Matters.” This was his strongest showing both lyrically and content-wise, as he insinuated that Kendrick is a domestic abuser and says much about the strained relationship between him and his fiancee. However, he still remained unfocused and spent time on the song dissing other artists like Metro Boomin, The Weeknd and Future, still not appearing to take this conflict as seriously as Kendrick was.

In perhaps the greatest move in the entire feud, Kendrick dropped his next track minutes after the release of “Family Matters.” The song “Meet the Grahams” is sheer horror turned into lyrics. The haunting deep chords of a piano playing a harsher melody, the deadpan and surgical way Kendrick delivers the words and the damning allegations he makes all serve to make the viewer feel as though they are listening to a slow murder in progress. The whole piece is written in the key of A-minor, a prelude of things to come. The song is written as a letter to members of Drake’s (whose legal name is Aubrey Graham) family, starting with the son that he hid from the world (Adonis) progressing to his parents and then an alleged second child, an 11-year old daughter, and finally, to Drake himself. It talks about his addictions to sex, drugs and gambling how his identity is artificial and vapid and  how he is an absent father , a wholesale evisceration of both career and character. Since it dropped so soon after Drake’s “Family Matters,” it overshadowed Drake’s solid track and firmly established Kendrick as landing the harder blows in this extended back-and-forth.

Maybe the most famous track to come out of all of this, “Not Like Us” (which debuted as No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100), came  out the day after “Meet the Grahams,” on May 4. It hit streaming platforms and immediately went viral for its quotability and catchiness. Many of the allegations about Drake’s pedophilia were dropped on this track.   Particularly frequently referenced is a video early in Drake’s career where he kisses a 17-year-old girl on stage after confirming she was 17. It also reveals  less heavy but still damning stories about Drake, such as his affair with Lil Wayne’s girlfriend and allegations that his label continues to employ sex offenders. Drake’s “The Heart Part 6” dropped on May 6  On this track, he plays defense and alleges that much of what Kendrick said was false information given to him deliberately by Drake himself via his team. Further, he hones in Kendrick’s personal relationships with his children and his fiancee, alleging that one of Kendrick’s associates, Dave Free actually fathered one of Kendrick’s children. He also claims that he could not have sex with minors, as he’s too wealthy and famous, leaving many confused as to what exactly he was trying to get at. 

Where do we go from here? Many of the allegations (and they are allegations), made by both sides are as of yet unverified. We don’t know if Drake is actually hiding a second child, what Kendrick’s relationship really is with his fiancee, or whether Drake really did feed Kendrick false information that he did not fact-check. However, there are claims  that we can confirm to be  true, such as Drake’s first hidden child. Yet much of this is still up in the air. How do we evaluate who won? Kendrick’s songs, through their lyricism and much stronger narrative weight, seem much more believable than Drake’s claims. To a mass audience watching from the outside without all the inside information, Kendrick is just a lot more convincing than Drake . His songs are consistently topping the charts, having whole clubs across the country sing out his allegations about Drake being into underage girls (the line “Tryin’ to strike a chord, but it’s probably A minor” from “Not Like Us” is particularly quotable). Is this the end of Drake’s career? I feel that is unlikely, given the sheer weight of Drake’s pop star status and his ability to make hits that appeal to a mass audience. However, the extremely public nature of this conflict is likely to put a heavy dent in his credibility as an authentic hip-hop artist in an environment where his authenticity was already in doubt. Until more information comes out from either side, we can only really take things at face value.  But in the court of public opinion with votes cast as streams and views, Kendrick appears to have absolutely swept Drake in this exchange.

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About the Contributor
Rahim Hamid
Rahim Hamid, Viewpoint Editor
I write, I debate, I bike, I lie, I true, I draw and program and dance and all the rest. Say hi and don’t be a stranger! Rahim is a sophomore and previously wrote for the Viewpoint Section.

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