Lessons Learned From The Drake And Kendrick Lamar Beef

With the release of his song “The Heart Part 6” on Sunday, Drake might have finally waved the white flag in his battle with Kendrick Lamar. Now that the dust has seemingly cleared, it looks like a good time to take stock of the damage. Here are six things we learned from the Drake and Kendrick Lamar beef.

Nobody Wins When The Family Feuds

Depending on who you ask, the winner of the battle remains a toss-up. Fans are divided by personal loyalties and favorites, of course, but also along lines of regionality, generation, and background. Some fans don’t feel there could be a winner after the battle became increasingly noxious. Whether you believe a rhyme fight should focus on punchlines and metaphors or mean-spirited mudslinging, both rappers went for broke, accusing each other of horrible crimes against women and children (going for the ol’ catch-22 loaded question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?“). Fans ascribed all sorts of symbolism to the battle — the future of the culture, philosophy of hip-hop, etc. — but ultimately, it all just came down to two guys who don’t like each other (despite having spent very little time together, to the best of my ability to ascertain) and put their problems on front street.

Drake’s Popularity With Fans Has Waned

For the past 15 years, one thing that could be relied on is that Drake would be the biggest thing in hip-hop anytime he dropped. Every one of his eight studio albums has debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. He’s had thirteen No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, all but one of them coming in the last six years. Fans still anticipate every release like kids do Christmas morning, and let’s just say if Kendrick Lamar had spent the past four weeks dropping bombs on just about any other rapper, the press coverage would probably have gone from “breathlessly recounting every move” to “middle of the local news section in an indie weekly” levels in comparison.

But one thing the response to the war of words showed was just how much resentment against Drake has been simmering just under the surface. He’s always had his fair share of haters — people for whom hip-hop has always stemmed from a place of animosity and struggle, however ahistorical that outlook may be. But over the past few years, he’s alienated a great many more who’ve grown tired of his maudlin, paranoid subject matter, his faux-gangster posturing, and his insidiously misogynistic view of women (more on that later). Most of the interest in the battle had little to do with proving which rapper was the best — people just wanted to see Drake lose.

Kendrick Hates Not Only Drake But Also Drake’s Whole Family

I’m not sure when exactly being a hater went from a vice to a virtue — consider it a function of the goalpost moving many fans were willing to do to ensure a Drake loss. But if “hating” was an Olympic sport, K. Dot would be its Michael Phelps after spending no less than 20 minutes across four tracks detailing all the ways he dislikes Drake, Drake’s dad, Drake’s friends, Toronto, Canada, Nickelodeon, and anything else he deemed responsible for his rival’s rise to stardom.

Calling Drake a “horrible f*cking person” is by far the most direct attack on his character, but turning mean-spirited social media gossip fodder into outright accusations of literal crimes is … a lot (especially for someone who has been determinedly vague about whether or not he actually killed another human being). There had long been rumors of friction between the two but no one had any idea just how deep it went until Kendrick rhymed “I hate the way that you walk, the way that you talk, I hate the way that you dress.”

Drake May Have Leaks In His Camp

Part of how methodically Kendrick picked his opponent apart stemmed from his assertion that he had moles in OVO feeding him information. Drake himself both denied and took credit for the leaks in “The Heart Part 6,” claiming that he’d seeded false information knowing Kendrick would pounce on it in his haste to find dirt to throw on Drake’s name.

But Drake should still find it concerning that anyone would be so invested in his downfall they’d sell him out — especially after the way Pusha T dug up the info concerning his son, Adonis. While cooler heads might attribute both rappers’ angles to them just being predictable as people — the jokes about jazz raps and Drake’s friendship with former child star Millie Bobbie Brown have been floating around on social media for years now — Drake’s “no new friends” policy probably hasn’t yielded all the results he’s hoped.

Kendrick Has Been Sitting On Entirely Too Many Fire Beats

The part of all this I found personally infuriating was learning just how much heat Kendrick has in his vault, especially after the navel-gazing disappointment that was Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Say what you want about having grand artistic vision, but we’ve had enough high concept albums that still had bangers on them that we should be holding Kendrick accountable for having had a Mustard-produced C-walk anthem on his hands and wasting it on something as petty as rap beef.

He also threw away a perfectly good Alchemist album on this nonsense. After getting a half-dozen incredible Alchemist-produced projects since 2020 (with such luminaries as Curren$y, Earl Sweatshirt, Freddie Gibbs, and Larry June), the idea that we could have had a Kendrick album produced by Al should be borderline unconscionable for all the so-called “real hip-hop heads” crowing about a battle. Bring that man up at The Hague and force him to put out all the material he has right now on the threat of life imprisonment. I’m only barely joking.

Beef Is Fun, But Not Necessarily Good For Hip-Hop

This may be controversial, but considering Questlove (who has forgotten more about hip-hop in the time it took me to write this feature than most of us will ever learn in a lifetime) thinks this too, I’m okay with whatever comes. I don’t think people who say that beef is “good for hip-hop” have ever considered what is or isn’t good for hip-hop. They’re just repeating a talking point, like “lower the rims” or “build the wall.”

The fact is, according to Audiomack co-founder Brian Zisook, “Multiple releases previously scheduled for next Friday, May 10, have already been delayed.” He further pointed out how the battle overshadowed releases from the likes of both rising stars like Chris Patrick and Foggieraw and underground veterans like NxWorries and Saba. How is that good for hip-hop? I joked that Detroit rapper Bfb Da Packman was just scamming with his much-touted Drake collab, but if Drake really did pull his feature — a feature that could have made Packman’s career — how does that help hip-hop?

Did the battle establish a new top dog in rap? It didn’t seem like that was even the goal after the initial jabs taken on “Like That” and “Push Ups.” Instead, both rappers seemed more intent on proving who was the bigger scumbag. Rap’s long-documented history of misogyny and homophobia reared its head yet again as they both used women as props, neglecting to acknowledge them as people, and used the very possibility of being gay as a weapon. This is good for hip-hop?

The recent shooting at Drake’s Toronto mansion may have nothing to do with the beef — but what if it did? I’m old enough and have been loving hip-hop long enough that I remember the slew of interviews from rap radio luminaries expressing their regrets at hyping up the beef between Biggie and Pac after both had been slain. Their deaths also may not have stemmed from their feud, but they let that feud define and consume the final year of Tupac’s career. B.I.G. went to his grave regretting losing a friend and that the last words they’d exchanged were hateful.

Competition might well be baked into the fabric of the genre and culture, but that personal vitriol has never been part of hip-hop. Wishing someone would die — which Kendrick straight-up said on “Meet The Grahams” — isn’t hip-hop. No rap feud stopped either Jay-Z or Nas from being two of the most respected names in hip-hop to this day. But just imagine if they’d been helping each other the whole time instead of tearing each other down.