How the feud between Drake and Kendrick Lamar could explode like that

How the feud between Drake and Kendrick Lamar could explode like that
How the feud between Drake and Kendrick Lamar could explode like that
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The worldwide streaming charts looked like a battlefield after the past week. In tenth place is ‘Family Matters’ by Drake, a song in which he accuses Kendrick Lamar of intimate partner violence. Seven places higher, with ‘Euphoria’, Lamar insinuates that Drake is neglecting his child. At the very top is ‘Not Like Us’, in which he flatly calls Drake a pedophile. It is the reflection of the feud between two giants that got out of hand: the most streamed and most acclaimed rapper of the past decade. Diss tracks have been flying back and forth between Drake and Kendrick Lamar for forty-nine days, with last weekend as a boiling point, when five songs were released in two days.

However, it started quite banally, with a discussion about who could be considered one of the Big Three of hip-hop. “It’s just big me”, Kendrick Lamar rapped on “Like That” in late March. For Drake, who had been at odds with Lamar for ten years, the insult was too much. (When Drake had a falling out with rapper DMX in 2012, Lamar sided with the latter. Drake is quite dramatic in that regard.)

The two sent diss tracks back and forth. Drake made fun of Lamar’s credibility, his slow writing pace and his collaborations with Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift. Lamar responded with ‘Euphoria’, a track in which he vented almost all the annoyances that have been circulating about Drake in the hip-hop community over the past ten years. (Drake is not exactly popular with most of his colleagues.) That as a Canadian man from the suburbs he is not who he pretends to be. That he tries to ride on the success of young, emerging artists. That he is more meme than rapper. That he had his abdominal muscles corrected with plastic surgery.

After which it quickly became very personal last weekend. In ‘Family Matters’, Drake insinuates that Lamar is not the father of his child and that he has abused his wife. In ‘Not Like Us’ Lamar bluntly calls Drake a pedophile who looks for underage girls. The provisional end point: ‘The Heart Part 6’, in which Drake (wrongly) claims that Lamar was sexually abused as a child and therefore sees imaginary pedophiles everywhere.

That wasn’t so funny anymore.

Role of the Internet

Now that the smoke around their heads has disappeared – or seems to have disappeared for six days – that is the predominant idea: how did this get so out of hand? You cannot ignore the role of the internet in 2024. Drake vs. Kendrick was the first major hip-hop feud tailored to today’s online pop culture.

You already noticed that from the shape. The diss tracks fired off in recent weeks were more than just a few eloquent insults thrown to a beat: they were ingeniously constructed, cryptic puzzles meant for the internet to parse. ‘6:16 in LA’, one of Lamar’s diss tracks, was based on a sample of ‘What A Wonderful Thing Love Is’, a soul song by Al Green from 1972. The guitarist during the recording: Drake’s uncle. In the video for Drake’s ‘Family Matters’, a Chrysler minivan is demolished: exactly the same make and type as the car on the cover of Good Kid, Mad CityLamar’s debut. “I hate the way that you walk, the way that you talk, I hate the way that you dress”Lamar raps in ‘Euphoria’, which is a reference to the words with which DMX got into trouble with Drake twelve years ago.

And those are just a few examples. Every sample, every credit, every lyric was an easter egg. Each track was meant to be taken apart by the fans, not so different from the obsessive fan culture that Taylor Swift has introduced in recent years. Drake and – especially – Lamar have brought the rap battle into a new era.

However, the problematic side of this immediately emerged. When Nas wrote ‘Ether’, a diss track towards Jay-Z, in 2001, it took him three months to release the song – he had to wait for his next record. Last weekend, the response from Drake or Lamar often took only a few hours before the track appeared on Spotify. When things move so quickly, in such a heated environment as today’s Internet, it’s easy to get carried away, which at least partly explains how an argument over who’s the biggest could explode into accusations of pedophilia in a month. More than diss tracks, ‘Not Like Us or Family Matters’ resembled exposé posts on social media, in which the problematic sides of celebrities are exposed. The question is how many of those insinuations and accusations will stick.

It is therefore unclear whether anyone actually emerged victorious. Kendrick Lamar had the best diss tracks, but saw dents in his image as a good guy in hip-hop. Drake then has to defend himself against insinuations of pedophilia, something he appears not to be particularly good at. (“If I was fucking young girls, I promise I’d have been arrested / I’m way too famous for this shit you just suggested”, he raps in ‘The Heart Part 6’. Saying he’s too famous to be a pedophile: not the defense Drake thinks it is.) It may have been good weeks on the streaming charts for Drake and Lamar, but their battle seems to be mostly losers.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: feud Drake Kendrick Lamar explode

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