Rappers are sensitive. On some level, we all know this. The garish tattoos and the stoic ice grills are just a put-on, a showy facade designed to reinforce established, market-tested notions of the “cool,” “tough,” “streetwise,” hustler image that became prevalent in the ’90s. Strip away the fierce looks and ostentatious accessorizing and they’re basically the smart, self-conscious kids from high school writing poetry about their feelings in their composition notebooks. The diamond-encrusted chains, watches, bracelets, and teeth are just window dressing designed to draw attention away from that fact — they’re basically the hip-hop equivalent of emo kids’ black eye makeup.
That’s why rappers are so touchy when it comes to competition and public critique and when it comes to sensitivity, no two creators in hip-hop are more subject to that categorization than Kanye West and Drake, who are currently engaged in a passive aggressive feud that’s drawn in other collaborators, brands, and even their significant others.
It’s played out on multiple social media platforms, in their music, over the phone, and in the debates of their respective fan bases. It dominated the hip-hop discussion for the better part of a year and it seems as though it may continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In Kanye’s latest rant, he may have let slip the real reason why he’s held this grudge and spent so much time of late allegedly sabotaging Drake. And just like so many other rap feuds, it extends from possibly one, petty moment of insecure sensitivity; in fitting fashion for these two personalities, possibly the most sensitive one yet in rap. It all starts with a swimming pool.
In November 2018, longtime Kanye collaborator Talib Kweli theorized on the Drink Champs podcast that the producer’s beef with Drake started when they both moved to the same neighborhood. His opinion was that the proximity to a direct competitor — one who had just as much popularity, money, access, and upward mobility as Kanye himself coveted — “triggered” Kanye’s latent insecurity and sent him into the creative overdrive that had him spending time in Wyoming and announcing ambitious release schedules in the hopes of outshining a potential rival. With all due respect to Kweli, he’s probably only partially right about why Kanye is so freaked out by Drake’s success, and pretty definitely wrong about Kanye being “triggered.” For the record, flippant uses of that term generally undermine its legitimate use as something that afflicts survivors of real trauma. Let’s just say Kanye is irritated for now.
Drake’s proximity to Kanye likely did irritate him, but probably not as much as what Drake had to say about it, namely on the track “Summer Sixteen,” which the Canadian star released on his Beats 1 show OVO Sound Radio. Intended as a victory lap around erstwhile rival Meek Mill’s stalled Dreams Worth More Than Money campaign after their lyrical tête-à-tête the year before, the track racked up some collateral damage at the expense of Kanye’s ego with a line comparing their respective backyard features. “Now I got a house in LA, now I got a bigger pool than Ye,” Drake rapped. “And look man, Ye’s pool is nice, mine’s just bigger’s what I’m saying.”