Kendrick Lamar & Drake’s Rap Beef: A Timeline Of Their Cold War, Which Just Started Sizzling Again

Updated May 2: With both rappers releasing new tracks in the feud, this post has been upated to reflect the changes since it was first published.

Way back in 2017, when I first started working at Uproxx, I wrote a piece called Bringing Drake And Kendrick Lamar To The Brink Of Battle about the longstanding cold war between the two prominent rappers, who fans have interchangeably considered the top of rap’s hierarchy along with J. Cole.

Collectively, they’ve been called hip-hop’s “Big Three,” but on Kendrick Lamar’s new verse on “Like That” from Future and Metro Boomin’s new joint album We Don’t Trust You, the Compton rapper derides the concept, declaring, “Motherf*ck the Big Three / N****, it’s just big me.”

He also spends a significant portion of his verse throwing shade at Drake, which some fans have interepreted as a response to Drake throwing some of his own on his J. Cole collaboration “First Person Shooter” from For All The Dogs.

Now, if you’ve found yourself wondering why these two have spent so much time and energy trying to dim each other’s light, here’s a timeline of their feud to help make sense of it all.

2011: Drake Invites Kendrick Lamar To Collaborate On Take Care

The first official collaboration between Drake and Kendrick appears on Drake’s second album, Take Care. On “Buried Alive,” Drake cedes the stage to Kendrick, who delivers an unbroken stream of consciousness reflecting on his already antagonistic relationship to fame. Even then, it was clear he wasn’t sure what to make of Drake’s extended hand; during the verse, he muses that their association would change him and not necessarily for the better. “So blame it on Mr. OVOXO / The reason why I’m breathin’ all the vanity I know,” he raps, the first sign that things were all hunky-dory despite their initially friendly footing.

2013: Kendrick Lamar’s Verse On Big Sean’s “Control” Sets The Rap World On Fire

It’s funny; the origin of Kendrick Lamar’s big break from the industry as a whole came on a song that isn’t even technically commercially available. For a while, K. Dot played the game, collaborating with Drake twice more (on his Good Kid, MAAD City single “Poetic Justice” and on ASAP Rocky’s “F*ckin’ Problems”) but when given the opportunity to collab with fellow rising star Big Sean on his second album Hall Of Fame, Kendrick instead went full scorched earth on “Control,” inviting the entire rap world to catch his fade. The song, which was released as a promotional single but ultimately cut from the album over sample clearance issues, brought an immediate response from dozens of rappers — but not the one he seemingly most wanted to react.

“I didn’t really have anything to say about it,” Drake told Billboard in August of that year. “It just sounded like an ambitious thought to me. That’s all it was. I know good and well that [Lamar]’s not murdering me, at all, in any platform. So when that day presents itself, I guess we can revisit the topic.”

2013: Kendrick Calls Out Drake On The BET Hip-Hop Awards

Revisit the topic Kendrick did, referencing Drake’s non-response in his Cypher verse at the 2013 BET Hip-Hop Awards. “Nothing’s been the same since they dropped ‘Control,'” he flexed. “And tucked a sensitive rapper back in his pajama clothes.” Unfortunately, despite name-checking Drake’s album, he failed to elicit a direct response, although some cited Drake’s verse on Future’s “Sh!t” as an indirect one: F*ck n****s gon’ be f*ck n****s / That’s why we never gave a f*ck when a f*ck n**** switched up.”

Since then, the two have exchanged a handful of subliminal potential disses, but never anything that either seemed to think was worth escalating the conflict over. A few examples include:

2013: Drake’s “The Language”

Nothing Was The Same was allegedly littered with references to Kendrick, none overt. However, it’s hard to overlook the first verse from “The Language” in which he decries “any n****s that’s talkin’ that sh*t just to get a reaction / F*ck going platinum, I looked at my wrist and it’s already platinum” — a subtle nod to Good Kid, MAAD City reaching the million-sold milestone two years after its release (by comparison, it took Drake’s debut album, Thank Me Later, just a month to accomplish).

2015: Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta”

When Kendrick incredulously wonders, “I can dig rapping / But a rapper with a ghost writer? What the f*ck happened?” many retroactively took it as a pointed reference to Drake’s “ghost writer” controversy, which was kicked off by Meek Mill later that year when he detailed being surprised that Drake asked him for a verse on a nearly completed reference song. After the scandal broke (and Drake cooked Meek with the onslaught of “Charged Up” and “Back To Back”), fans pointed to Kendrick’s bar as an example of foreshadowing… even though he never mentions Drake on the track.

2015: Drake’s Verse From The Game’s “100”

“I would have all of your fans / If I didn’t go pop and I stayed on some conscious shit,” has long been construed as a gloating shot at Kendrick for being unable to match Drake in commercial success. Another example of a line that could be about K. Dot: “I’m in the club every time that they play the competition If they even play the competition and I seen the response they get.”

2015: Kendrick’s Verse From Dr. Dre’s “Deep Water”

“Motherf*cker know I started from the bottom” begins the verse, calling back to one of Drake’s best-known but most scrutinized hits. (“I don’t give a f*ck about your whereabouts” could also be seen as a reference to the Canadian rapper’s tendency to release songs titled with timestamps and locations, such as…)

2016: Drake’s “4PM In Calabasas”

Less of a diss and more of a reminder, Drake made it a point to take credit for taking the risk of backing Kendrick and ASAP Rocky in 2011, eschewing the advice to bring R&B singers on his tour. “When they told me take an R&B n**** on the road and I told ’em no and drew for Kendrick and Rocky / I tried to make the right choices with the world watching.” Might have bit him in the backside.

2017: Kendrick’s “The Heart Part 4”

Ahead of releasing the Pulitzer-winning DAMN., Kendrick made it a point to tell Drake: “Jay-Z Hall of Fame, sit your punk ass down / So that means you ain’t bigger than rapping.” After taking some parting shots on the original version of “Element” (which didn’t make his Pulitzer-winning album, DAMN.) he went so long without dropping new music, that it seemed their feud had ended by virtue of sheer boredom on either rapper’s part.

2023: Drake’s “First Person Shooter” Verse

Despite taking in one of Kendrick’s Big Steppers tour stops (after Kendrick expressed confusion at Drake and Kanye squashing their own feud on that album), Drake seemingly couldn’t resist getting in some digs at Kendrick on his J. Cole collaboration, nor slighting him during his own tour, telling fans he wouldn’t disappear on them for years at a time (suggesting that’s what Kendrick did between 2017’s DAMN. and 2022’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers).

2024: Kendrick Lamar’s “Like That” Verse

And here we are, full circle — sorta. Truthfully, this feels more like it should be an intermission, although it’s also the first time in over 10 years Kendrick openly baited Drake with an invitation to throw down. We’ll see if the time Drake predicted all those years ago finally comes to pass, or if Kendrick’s craving for conflict continues to go unsatisfied.

April 2024: Drake Strikes Back And Gets AI Involved

On April 13, a song purported to be Drake’s response leaked online. The song, “Push Ups,” found the embattled Torontonian showing his teeth at many of those who’d taken the opportunity provided by “Like That” to air a decade’s worth of grievances against him. However, the main target was, of course, Kendrick Lamar. “Maroon 5 need a verse, you better make it witty / Then we need a verse for the Swifties / Top say drop, you better drop and give ’em fifty,” he raps on the track, making it fairly clear just who he’s talking about.

“Push Ups” was given an official release a few days later, but Drake still wasn’t done clapping back at his opponent. Within days, he’d already released a second track, “Taylor Made Freestyle,” which featured AI-generated verses from Snoop Dogg and Tupac deploring Kendrick’s representation of the two rappers’ beloved West Coast. Unfortunately for Drake, that one didn’t go over so well, with Tupac’s estate threatening legal action and forcing him to delete the track the same way J. Cole did “7 Minute Drill.”

April 2024: Kendrick Releases “Euphoria,” Scoring With Fans

On the final day of the month, though, Kendrick may have scored the last laugh. His scathing Drake diss, “Euphoria,” appeared on YouTube without warning, bearing a slew of cutting lines that put Drake up against the ropes in the minds of many fans. And while Drake seemingly tried to brush off the damage he’d done, the ball is in his court once again — although Kendrick warned that his next response would be even worse.