Every rapper has a blind spot. In the race to make sure everyone keeps it “100” and doesn’t go back on his words or expresses any chinks in the “keep it real” rhetoric, they each have a flaw exposing them to weakness. For Rick Ross, it’s his past as a parole officer. For Jay Z, it’s his reluctance to take political stands or give back in ways that make Harry Belafonte happy. For Drake, it’s been his reactions to barbs thrown at him from other rappers.
In each occasion, the rappers either responds with no comments, misdirection or non-sequitors. In Drake’s case, he’s always kept the “diss me you’ll never hear a reply for it” act while throwing no-look subliminals to the paint any chance he gets. As everyone knows, Kendrick Lamar shook up the Hip-Hop world with his “Control” verse and – in my opinion – one of the most fascinating stories of 2013 has been Drake’s reaction to it. He’s…well…hurt.
Drake’s subsequent press run featured well-documented backhanded compliments, barbs and passive aggressive responses to Kendrick’s verse that showed a man who was truly shaken by the call to arms. But the responses haven’t ended there. Drake clearly dissed Kendrick on “The Language” and Future’s “Sh*t” remix whether he called a name or not.
What’s frustrating, is that why Drake is tossing out insults, he’s insisting that he’s above the fray. For his latest cover story in Vibe, Drake carries on the charade:
“The sentiment he was putting forth is what he should have. Of course you wanna be the best. Where it became an issue is that I was rolling out an album while that verse was still bubbling, so my album rollout became about this thing. What am I supposed to say? Nah, we’ll be buddy-buddy? Mind you, I never once said he’s a bad guy [or] I don’t like him. I think he’s a fucking genius in his own right, but I also stood my ground as I should. And with that came another step, which then I have to realize I’m being baited and I’m not gonna fall. Jordan doesn’t have to play pickup to prove that he could play ball, no offense. But I’m not gonna give you the chance to shake me necessarily, ’cause I feel great. There’s no real issue. It’s tough because the people wanna see us tear each other down; I don’t wanna give them that. There’s no point. I have no ill feelings toward that guy. It’s just like, it’s there for me if I wanna fall for it. I’m just too smart for that. Hopefully it’s the last time I gotta talk about this, ’cause every time I open my mouth up about it, they take this piece and take this piece. And he’s hungry, so he’s going to do what he has to do like the BET [cypher]. But again, it’s not enough for me to go. We haven’t seen each other [since the BET cypher,] but I’m sure we’ll see each other and it’ll be cool. And if it’s not, then I guess that’s how our story unfolds.”
Here’s the thing with Drake: his persona is so carefully constructed. He’s a clear graduate of the Shawn Carter School Of Calculated Sound Bytes. But nothing truly has been the same since Kendrick dropped “Control.” Drake doesn’t know if he’s coming or going.
Whatever the case, he sounds like a damn fool insinuating that he’s above insults while hurling them in ways that allow him even the most frail thread of plausible deniability. Let’s not forget that Kendrick Lamar’s BET Cypher came on the heels of Drake’s press run where he was taking pot shots at Kendrick. If not for those clips, the BET Cypher doesn’t happen, so Kendrick isn’t just some up-and-comer looking for recognition. He wants respect, which Drake is reluctant to give, as obvious by more slights like this one from that same Vibe interview:
“He’s, like, the best. What an era to be a part of. I wouldn’t want my competition to be anybody else. My competition is nobody else, by the way. It’s just me and ‘Ye. I still have work to do but that’s what it is right now.”
Sure, that’s praise of Kanye but it’s just as much another thump at Kendrick Lamar’s back shoulder only to look up to the ceiling whistling when Kendrick turns around to see what’s good.
Rap contradiction is nothing new. And we as fans choose to either accept them or hold the rappers to the fire if we feel our intelligence is insulted. In Drake’s case, I’m not sure if he has had time to calculate and understand such a danger to his previously conceded status as next top dog. He’s LeBron in the 2012 NBA Finals, staring at a younger, just-as-talented usurper who can yank away trophies the King had just assumed would be his for years to come.
We all know how LeBron responded. The book still isn’t finished on Drake’s reaction, but he won’t go far if he continues to throw stones and hide his hands.