It’s been a good, solid week since Eminem released “Killshot,” his verbose yet virtuosic response to Machine Gun Kelly’s “Rap Devil.” Since neither has taken time out of a busy schedule of press interviews and touring with Fall Out Boy to record — or rather, release — another response, this seems like a decent time to take stock, tally up the points on the scoreboard, and decide just who’s ahead after the first round in what many rap fans are hoping turns into an all-out lyrical war.
Of course, controversy is nearly always certain in situations like this, so we need to break down the three areas in which MGK and Slim Shady are getting scored. First up, and most obviously: Lyrics. In a rap battle, the guy with the best lyrics wins. Now, this rating is admittedly super subjective — after all, some folks love a good, tongue-twisting rhyme pattern while others prefer hard-hitting punchlines or particularly juicy gossip, as in Drake vs. Pusha earlier this summer. In that case, although both rappers were pretty evenly matched from a technical standpoint, it was Pusha’s revelation that Drake had secretly been supporting a child that pushed the match over the edge. Drake quietly withdrew after some corner coaching from mentor J. Prince, who decided that both rappers’ entourages were way too rowdy to keep slinging personal shots.
Next, we’ll look at responses. How did each rapper roll with the punches? For instance, Drake’s initial response to Pusha’s feints on “Infrared” was the decidedly sassy sigh at the beginning of his own “Duppy Freestyle,” which would have earned him big points, but given Pusha’s own response turned out to be “The Story Of Adidon” and Drake’s follow-up involved turning tail, The Boy from Canada loses a sizable majority of those points. Finally, we’ll look at impact; this is hardest to judge, because there isn’t much distance from the actual tracks landing to see how they’ve affected the landscape of hip-hop or the respective rappers’ careers.
The impact of Pusha’s diss on Drake could be minimal if you look at sales (seriously, Scorpion is one of the highest-selling albums of the year while Daytona drags along, falling off the Billboard 200 just seven weeks later), but seemed to have rattled Drake, making him reconsider tracks at the 11th hour. Scorpion is full of obtuse references to the battle, but it looked like nice guy returned; getting scared straight is no way to win a rap beef.
So, without further ado, here’s the breakdown of the battle that had the rap internet buzzing this past week.