Kendrick Lamar And Drake Battle For The Lowest Blow

Well, that escalated quickly. Just as soon as we got into the whole genesis of this beef, things took a left turn right into hell. This weekend, Kendrick Lamar was out to prove a point with an all-out assault on the character Drake, played by the actor Aubrey Graham. K.Dot went bully mode, dropping song after song after song in a way that both overshadowed Drake and forced him to come to the altar and explain himself. A fatality for the entire internet to watch.

From where we last left off, Kendrick dropped a second diss track after the browbeating that was “Euphoria.” The cutting salvo, “6:16 in LA,” released on Friday afternoon, in which Kendrick feeds into Drake’s mafioso paranoia by alleging that his very camp is feeding Kendrick information because of how much the people that work for “the boy” also hate him:

Are you finally ready to play have-you-ever? Let’s see
Have you ever thought that OVO is workin’ for me?
Fake bully, I hate bullies, you must be a terrible person
Everyone inside your team is whispering that you deserve it

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Kendrick further digs deeper into this theme of Drake’s staff and entourage being against him:

A hundred niggas that you got on salary
And twenty of ’em want you as a casualty
And one of them is actually next to you
And two of them is practically tired of your lifestyle
Just don’t got the audacity to tell you

It’s a good song, but clearly a light jab. Still, it’s an attempt by Kendrick to adopt Drake’s own “Back to Back” move and use it against him. Further adding to that is the timestamp title of the record, which is a popular series of songs for Drake.

This was supposed to be the weekend of Drake. I know he probably had it all planned out. He put on an entire production, a 7-and-a-half minute song with a short film to boot. “Family Matters” was Drake’s best attempt at any kind of a knockout, going at Kendrick with the same unsavory allegations and more short jokes, but also some really clever lines. My personal favorite: Kendrick just opened his mouth, someone go hand him a Grammy right now.

That is just pure hater energy, which is the kind I like. In the video, Drake takes the van from the cover of Good Kid , M.A.A.D City (more likely a replica) and has it impounded and destroyed (not exactly beating the colonizer claims) and is also seen at the Toronto Chinese spot New Ho King, which Kendrick referenced in “Euphoria” as the site of Drake’s robbery in 2009. Drake is trying to show that he has no problems posting up there for any sort of action. Truth be told, New Ho King might be the biggest winner in all of this.

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But much of “Family Matters” continues Drake’s theme of 20 vs. 1, and he goes back at all the other rappers jumping in on the beef, including The Weeknd, Rick Ross, A$AP Rocky, Metro Boomin, and Future. Trying to maintain his spot on the top of the mountain as the onlookers take their shots.

The main takeaways from “Family Matters” are that Drake came with a strong but flawed response. Flawed in that, yet again, Drake is underestimating how much hatred people have towards him and his refusal to take Kendrick seriously. Drake is hoping to continue the narrative that it’s him vs. the industry, because it paints the Goliath as a David figure—and he is well aware of how much hip-hop loves an underdog fight—but in doing so it’s like he’s bringing a knife to a gun fight.

There are a lot of low blows towards Kendrick and his family and serious allegations of domestic violence. It’s not funny, but this is a beef built on crass accusations by everyone, so they’re clearly comfortable taking it into the muck. How much of it is true or just based on rumor and conjecture, who knows? I’m not going to be the one to pretend like I do. It’s just pathetic on all sides how much of this rap beef, and really most rap beefs, come at the expense of women, propped up on their degradation and embarrassments for the sake of male egos. And yet, Drake does not seem to hate Kendrick as much as Kendrick hates him. Drake wants to son him and is probably jealous of the prestige he garners, but he doesn’t hate him. Really, the only one I can say for sure who Drake despises is probably The Weeknd. Canadian-on-Canadian violence must end! He is dismissive of Rick Ross and Metro Boomin, he’s probably just jealous of Rocky for getting Rihanna pregnant, and he seems genuinely hurt that Future has abandoned him. But he really does not want to meet Kendrick as a peer, and he wants to prove that he has just as much dirt on Kendrick as Kendrick claims to have on him. It’s a quality body shot, but even while listening to the track it felt like he had walked into a trap.

And oh, how right that feeling was, because grand opening, grand closing; Drake couldn’t even have the zeitgeist for 30 minutes before Kendrick came with a response and really took things to the seventh circle of hell with “Meet The Grahams.” A brutal, dark record that acts as a letter to each of Drake’s family members: his son Adonis, his mother and father, and the alleged 11-year-old daughter that Kendrick claims Drake has kept secret.

Dear baby girl
I’m sorry that your father not active inside your world
He don’t commit to much but his music, yeah, that’s for sure
He a narcissist, misogynist, livin’ inside his songs
Try destroy families rather than takin’ care of his own

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And honestly, that might be the nicest part of this song. Kendrick was clearly holding onto this one, waiting to release it the moment Drake released his response. Most people that have listened to the track would agree that this song was especially grim, which doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have made it or released it, but it’s just evidently uncomfortable. In the same way watching someone get stabbed in front you in meticulous fashion would be hard to watch, it doesn’t matter if the other person deserved it or set themselves up for it.

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
Life is hard, I know, the challenge is always gon’ beat us home
Sometimes our parents make mistakes that affect us until we grown
And you’re a good kid that need good leadership
Let me be your mentor since your daddy don’t teach you shit
Never let a man piss on your leg, son
Either you die right there or pop that man in the head, son
Never fall in the escort business, that’s bad religion
Please remember, you could be a bitch even if you got bitches
Never code-switch, whether right or wrong, you a Black man
Even if it don’t benefit your goals, do some push-ups, get some discipline
Don’t cut them corners like your daddy did, fuck what Ozempic did
Don’t pay to play with them Brazilians, get a gym membership
Understand, no throwin’ rocks and hidin’ hands, that’s law
Don’t be ashamed ’bout who you wit’, that’s how he treat your moms
Don’t have a kid to hide a kid to hide again, be sure

It was clear already that Kendrick hated this man, but this song is evidence that K.Dot may be a truly unwell human. There is some profoundly disturbing shit happening on this song, and it’d be funnier if it didn’t get so dark. Observe:

You raised a horrible fuckin’ person, the nerve of you, Dennis
Sandra, sit down, what I’m about to say is heavy, now listen
Mm-mm, your son’s a sick man with sick thoughts, I think niggas like him should die
Him and Weinstein should get fucked up in a cell for the rest they life
He hates Black women, hypersexualizes ’em with kinks of a nympho fetish
Grew facial hair because he understood bein’ a beard just fit him better

Like, goodness gracious. And just as Drake did on “Family Matters,” Kendrick uses “Meet The Grahams” to allege some pretty serious accusations about Drake and his camp, particularly that Drake is interested in underage girls and that his camp has sex offenders on the payroll. How much of it is true? Similar to what Drake said, no one knows for sure. But the difference here is, there’s been a lot more fire with that smoke. Kendrick continues:

You got gamblin’ problems, drinkin’ problems, pill-poppin’ and spendin’ problems
Bad with money, whorehouse
Solicitin’ women problems, therapy’s a lovely start
But I suggest some ayahuasca, strip the ego from the bottom

Just a top-to-bottom character assassination. It would’ve been enough for Kendrick to have left it there, but he decided to twist the knife as far as it could be twisted. On Saturday, he released the most popular song of this beef thus far: “Not Like Us,” a DJ Mustard-produced club record in which he does Drakeo The Ruler flow to turn his assault of Drake into a crowd pleaser. Or at least as much as a crowd pleaser about a rapper and his homeboys being sexual predators can be.

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But again, just like with Drake, it’s also pretty heinous to now use serious allegations of pedophilia and sex offenses as a way to taunt another man. Kendrick is trying to present it as a question of who lives more righteously, but even if you don’t believe Drake’s allegations, Kendrick is a guy that has championed other rappers who have been accused of domestic abuse. He’s not exactly a paragon of women’s rights, despite how he presents himself. These are two hypocritical artists playing the Spider-Man meme together. But rappers are known liars, even when they’re telling the truth. What’s more worrying, in the case of both men, is they seem comfortable holding onto serious crimes purely as fodder to use against people in rap beefs. And that puts an automatic ceiling on how much you can enjoy this personally.

Frankly, the beef is strong enough without using the abuse of women and girls as fodder. On “Family Matters,” Drake rapped, Always rappin’ like you ’bout to get the slaves freed/ you just actin’ like an activist, it’s make-believe. Some people found this distasteful and a perfect encapsulation of why people think Drake is a cultural outsider, but I thought it was a pretty fun and apt assessment of Kendrick’s whole persona as a rap Malcolm X who is only politically active until some real politics take place. That said, it was also obvious that Drake set himself up with that line to be picked apart and Kendrick did so on “Not Like Us” in a way to completely embarrass him.

Once upon a time, all of us was in chains
Homie still doubled down callin’ us some slaves
Atlanta was the Mecca, buildin’ railroads and trains
Bear with me for a second, let me put y’all on game
The settlers was usin’ town folk to make ’em richer
Fast-forward, 2024, you got the same agenda
You run to Atlanta when you need a check balance
Let me break it down for you, this the real nigga challenge
You called Future when you didn’t see the club (Ayy, what?)
Lil Baby helped you get your lingo up (What?)
21 gave you false street cred
Thug made you feel like you a slime in your head (Ayy, what?)
Quavo said you can be from Northside (What?)
2 Chainz say you good, but he lied
You run to Atlanta when you need a few dollars
No, you not a colleague, you a fuckin’ colonizer

If Kendrick is only good at one thing, it’s rapping like he’s a professor of black studies, and Drake set K.Dot up to turn this beef into a history lesson. And if Drake hadn’t been shamed enough, Kendrick creating a hit record with a full call-and-response section was the ultimate gut shot.

I have never been a huge Kendrick Lamar fan. It’s not like with Drake, who I think represents something broken and artificial about rap music in the 21st century, but Kendrick does represent something almost as annoying. He is the manifestation of the most navel-gazing, self-important aspects of hip-hop nostalgia. He is the prestige television of rap. He is the guy who lets people that don’t read books feel like intellectuals. He is the guy for people that call rap music “poetry.” I have always scoffed at this notion that Kendrick is some polar opposite to Drake; that he is hip-hop’s purity to Drake’s corruption. Really, they are two poles of how to be a pop star in rap in the 21st century: you can be a hit machine or the critical darling. On “Not Like Us,” Kendrick aimed to prove that he could be the prolific hitmaker that Drake is, that he could keep the internet and the culture buzzing, only he simply chooses not to for the sake of whatever legacy he is striving for instead.

Whether that’s actually true is an open question, but that’s what he’s claiming. I would argue the fact that he had to do a wholesale Drakeo meets Ralfy The Plug impression to get that hit would indicate that he and Drake are more alike than he’s willing to admit to himself.

But nevertheless, he accomplished his goal. Drake doesn’t seem to have much fight left in him after all of this. Last night, Drake released “The Heart Part 6,” a reference to Kendrick’s The Heart series. A response track in every sense of the word as he did more claiming his own innocence than actually going after Kendrick. Although in typical Drake fashion, he couldn’t help but sling more mud, insinuating that Kendrick is projecting on him because he may have been molested as a kid. A gross bar, but in keeping with how gross and tawdry all of this has been. It’s also technically wrong and just a misreading of Kendrick’s lyrics on “Mother I Sober” from Mr. Morale. But this is one way I can relate to Drake: I sometimes don’t know what Kendrick is going on and on about either. Drake also makes the wild assertion that he planted fake information about himself to bait Kendrick into thinking he got salacious info, as though he were some kind of a Bond villain.

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Ultimately this is as close to a white flag as Drake’s ego can allow him to wave. Will that be enough for Kendrick? Doubtful, as he seems committed to keep this going. Kendrick likely sees this as a cementing of his status as one of the best rappers ever and maybe it will be, but it still feels like two boxers at their twilight trying to get one last glorious moment. I mean, even with all these salacious accusations, so much of this beef comes down to “Who is the more responsible and upright member of society?” Kendrick is coming out on top, but with all this gross mudslinging back and forth, there’s not much to differentiate between the winner and loser. At least Metro Boomin is enjoying himself, though.

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