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Kendrick vs Drake

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With every second Kendrick Lamar holds on to the last letter of “minor” in Not Like Us, the inflammatory song about his fellow rapper Drake, his raspy vocals reverberate through hip-hop and popular culture.

It’s an explosive allegation, made without evidence, that calls into question Drake’s conduct with young women – an allegation now heard around the world. Drake, one of the world’s biggest artists, vehemently denies it.

 Since its release on 4 May, Not Like Us has been dissected on social media, played at NBA basketball games and boomed from DJ booths at parties from London to Los Angeles; New York to Atlanta, piercing the public consciousness. 

And it is only one of nine songs that make up a mind-boggling, escalating conflict between two modern rap titans, involving unevidenced accusations of domestic violence, secret children and paedophilia – all denied.

This is a cold war that has simmered over the last decade finally boiling to the surface. 

“I think we’ve all expected this to happen at some point,” says Minou Itseli, also known as Mimi The Music Blogger, a journalist and content creator. “They’ve been sending indirect shots to each other in their music a lot more than we first thought. But no one could have seen the beef go this far.”

Both men have been praised and criticised during the feud, and fans of both have proclaimed their favourite the winner.

But who – if either – has come out of this looking good?

You’d be forgiven for blinking and missing some of the detail, given how fast this confrontation has moved.

It began with Lamar’s verse on Like That, by rappers Future and Metro Boomin. Drake responded with Push Ups, belittling Lamar’s achievements and status as a rap legend. That track currently sits on more than 70 million streams on Spotify.

Doubling down, Drake’s controversial Taylor Made Freestyle utilised AI-generated voices of two of Lamar’s heroes – Snoop Dogg and the late, great, Tupac Shakur – to goad him into a reply.

Drake also claimed Lamar wasn’t replying to his taunts for fear of interrupting the release of Taylor Swift’s new album. Drake raps: “Taylor Swift is your new top” – meaning Lamar’s boss – “and if you boutta drop, she gotta approve.”

The message was clear. Drake doesn’t respect Lamar, who is considered one of the greatest rappers of his generation, and was ready to take him down a peg.

Joseph “JP” Patterson, editor-in-chief of Complex UK and founder of TRENCH magazine tells the BBC: “I might be the only person on this planet with this viewpoint, but Taylor Made Freestyle was pretty dope. I get the rap purist’s dismay around him using AI verses but even down to the beat, I was feeling it.”

And then, fans waited with bated breath anticipating the next move. Those on social media felt Lamar wasn’t up for the fight, given he had yet to respond.

His rebuttal was Euphoria, a track questioning Drake’s parenting skills, rumours that he’d had plastic surgery and his use of AI.

Lines as straightforward as: “I hate the way that you walk, the way that you talk, I hate the way that you dress” resonated with fans because of Lamar’s heated delivery, highlighting everything – and he means everything – he dislikes about Drake.

It was so impactful that Euphoria was used in an official TikTok video for US President Joe Biden’s election campaign against Donald Trump.

Itseli believes this track perfectly sums up Lamar’s stance: “It’s a summary of everything he wanted to say to Drake,” she shares. “If anyone wants a short recap of Kendrick’s side, you’ll find everything in Euphoria.”

Lamar’s 6:16 In LA followed, where he muses: “Have you ever thought that OVO [Drake’s record label] was working for me? / Everyone inside your team is whispering that you deserve it.” He threatens to shine a forensic light on Drake’s character to bring his reputation into disrepute, with help from inside Drake’s own label.

Itseli says that Lamar was playing perfectly to his audience throughout the back-and-forth. “Kendrick knew what to bring to the table and went for the kill. He studied Drake’s behaviour and catered his songs to every audience. He gave us wordplay, a club hit, conceptual songs. Drake couldn’t really compete.”

And with this one-two punch from Lamar, fans feared the walls were closing in on Drake. But the Canadian rapper went nuclear in response.

Family Matters attacks Lamar’s family unit, claiming his son is the biological child of Lamar’s creative partner, Dave Free, and that he has been physically abusive to his wife, Whitney Alford.

Drake sings: “When you put your hands on your girl, Is it self-defence ’cause she’s bigger than you?” referencing the height difference between Lamar and his wife.


Lamar has denied these claims, but the beef had now entered a new realm – one uncomfortable for many observers.

In a culture that prides itself on the boundless nature of lyrical battle, where anything can be said about your opponent, some of the barbs have struck spectators as going too far.

Music journalist Alphonse Pierre, writing in Pitchfork,, external said: “You have to consider the women who are the ones who have really suffered, who don’t have the agency to speak for themselves.

“Drake and Kendrick are not thinking about that at all. To them, this is all just material for jokes and trolling.”

And the allegations only ramped up from there.

Meet The Grahams, Lamar’s retort, directly addresses Drake’s son Adonis, his mother Sandra, his father Dennis and an alleged secret daughter (denied by Drake) . Lamar tells Drake in a calming, almost therapeutic cadence: “You got gamblin’ problems, drinkin’ problems, pill-poppin’ and spendin’ problems.”

He also highlights Drake’s alleged use of the diabetic drug Ozempic to lose weight. According to Lamar, Drake isn’t who he says he is, and is a man broken beyond repair.

Not Like Us, released later that same day, is packed with accusations about Drake with lines such as “Certified Lover Boy, certified paedophiles” and “say, Drake, I hear you like ’em young, you better not ever go to cell block one” (the suggestion being that Drake would be the subject of physical abuse were he to go to prison).

It was an incendiary record, but the world was listening and as of 11 May, Not Like Us was the number one song on Spotify’s global chart, with over 57 million streams since its release. 

“Not Like Us is my favourite Kendrick diss track in this beef; just as brutal as it is a bop!” Patterson says.

Though The Heart Part 6 would form Drake’s next and – as of now – final rebuttal. The rappers appear done with the battle, ready to move on.

Naturally, fans of both have flocked to proclaim each as the winner. Many have praised the lyrics as giving the genre a shot in the arm.

Some have said Lamar has forced Drake to up his lyrical game, while others have commended the duo for providing an all-time moment in rap history.

“All in all, Kendrick won this battle,” Patterson declares. “Both dragged each other to hell with their lyrical jabs, but it’s undeniable who came out on top. Drake will remain the superstar rapper that he is – this definitely won’t stop his motion – but he’ll need to be secure enough to take all the jokes and banter for losing for the rest of his career. Rap music wins, yet again.”

Itseli agrees on the winner. “This will be remembered as one of the biggest rap beefs of the past few decades. It was about culture: Kendrick caring about and preserving the essence of hip-hop against someone he feels doesn’t represent it.

“For rap fans, it has confirmed a lot of what they thought about Drake – that he plays a role; he’s just a character that shifts to whichever music trends are popular at any time. Kendrick proved he cares about the art of rap music and can do it in his sleep. He’s so nuanced in the way he creates that he has earned the respect of many.”

Elsewhere, rap commentators such as DJ Akademiks and Gillie The Kid have sided with Drake, calling him the winner. “The rules of battle were changed for Kendrick,” DJ Akademiks told the Flagrant Podcast.

“Drake was called scared for taking two weeks to respond to Like That, but when Kendrick takes two weeks to respond to Drake, everyone says he needs time.

“The majority of this battle has been Kendrick Lamar saying, ‘I’m going to pick you apart as a man.’ But if what he’s said is complete lies, it takes away from what he’s saying.”

Whoever you think came out on top, one thing is certain. The beef has entertained the entire world, enhancing the legacies of two generational rap artists.


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