On Saturday, March 18, the Canadian rap sensation dropped More Life.
Less than a month later, on April 14, the good kid from Compton dropped DAMN.
Shonda Rhimes could have written the last month of rap music, and there’d still be less be less melodrama. Forget about a knife; you could cut the tension in hip-hop with an old microphone cord.
While there may be individual disagreements, for the most part it feels like the “Real Hip-Hop™” establishment has decided the two biggest names in rap are Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, the face, and Aubrey Drake Graham, the heel — but it’s never been that simple
Consider the two points above. Disparate, coincidental, discrete occurrences to any objective, outside observer. But somehow, within the unwritten and often fluctuating rules of hip-hop, each resonates with its opposite, increasing in importance and impact purely because of the existence of both. They circle around each other with the sort of gravity reserved for opponents locked in mortal combat, trapped in a ring of fire, with no way out but to go through the other guy, and no control at all over how they got here.
It’s funny; on some level, the baseline argument between the two — on a purely technical, skill-based level — is quantity vs. quality. Both have pros and cons, but both meet the terms of the social contract between rapper and fan, to play their assigned roles as hero and villain, even when neither quite fits. Both of them become avatars representing the best and worst of hip-hop; pop rap vs. authentic street hip-hop. Kendrick is the savior of “real rap,” while Drake upholds everything that is wrong with hip-hop nowadays. Drake drops an album, social media lights up: “When will Kendrick respond?” Kendrick’s follow-up drops; it can’t be a random event, a coincidence of market factors like holidays and summer doldrums, it has to be planned, it has to be deliberate, it has to be petty, it just has has to be about Drake!