Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 23, 2024
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Drake retaliates against Kendrick Lamar in a leaked song, attacking Lamar’s reputation, claiming both extortion and a decrease in commercial success.

On March 22, a bomb was dropped — or rather, a bar. To be specific:

“Motherfuck the big three, n***a it’s just big me.” 

Kendrick Lamar (K-Dot, Kung Fu Kenny) came out swinging against his primary competition in retaliation to a playful diss released in October of last year. Drake’s No. 1 hit off his latest studio album For All the Dogs, First Person Shooter (feat. J. Cole),” took shots that echoed across the rap game, mainly from J. Cole:

“Love when they argue the hardest MC / Is it K-Dot? Is it Aubrey? Or me? / We the big three like we started a league, but right now, I feel like Muhammad Ali.”

The “big three” of hip hop — Drake, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar — are at war. J. Cole and Drake’s alliance on “First Person Shooter” was already a historical moment; it’s rare that these three giants, generally considered to be the best rappers still releasing music, would even consider hopping on a track together. Many people, including myself, heavily favored J. Cole’s verse over Drake’s. In the end, though, this was a fun competition. Their bars each insisted they were number one, of course, but they showed clear respect for one another. Nonetheless, Lamar’s omission from this track was far from irrelevant. 

Hip hop producer Metro Boomin (Metro) has been dropping subtle disses toward Drake on X (formerly Twitter) since late last year, initially in reaction to Drake’s album Her Loss beating Metro’s album Heroes & Villains for Album of the Year at numerous award shows. In a deleted post, Metro insisted that award shows are “just politics” and that Drake’s victories were “proof.” Their beef goes back to the development of a sequel to What a Time to Be Alive, a moderately successful collaboration between Drake and Future, which was discontinued for unknown reasons. 

In the first of Metro and Future’s latest collaboration, an LP titled We Don’t Trust You, Kendrick Lamar took the opportunity to fight on Metro and Future’s behalf, as well as his own. In his verse on “Like That,” K-Dot referenced multiple lyrics from J. Cole and Drake’s verses on “First Person Shooter”: 

“Fuck sneak dissin', first-person shooter, I hope they came with three switches / [...] / What? I'm really like that / And your best work is a light pack / N***a, Prince outlived Mike Jack' / N***a, bum / 'Fore all your dogs gettin' buried / That's a K with all these nines, he gon' see Pet Sematary (Yeah).”

Kendrick Lamar compares his rivalry with Drake to that of Prince and Michael Jackson, implying he will outlive Drake, just like Prince. Lamar also puns off the title of Drake’s latest project For All The Dogs, showing his hostility not only for Drake, but his allies as well.

Following the verse, the rap game went nuclear. Lamar has a reputation for verses which call out big name artists — his famous “Control” verse left a permanent legacy — but this attack was more focused, going straight for Drake, the current golden boy of hip hop. Cole took the challenge first, releasing a surprise full-length LP cheekily titled Might Delete Later. In the track titled “7 Minute Drill,” he returned fire, going through K-Dot’s whole discography, controversially calling Lamar’s second studio album, To Pimp a Butterfly, boring:

“Your first shit was classic, your last shit was tragic / Your second shit put n***s to sleep, but they gassed it / Your third shit was massive and that was your prime / I was trailin' right behind and I just now hit mine.”

Following this retaliation, most called the verse boring and weak, defending To Pimp a Butterfly (which is considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of all time) and returning the same accusation of “sleepiness” to J. Cole’s own discography.

Drake’s camp lost an important ally when J. Cole apologized to his fans at a concert, citing a negative effect on his spiritual health and effectively dropping out of the war, leaving Drake to stand alone. 

Now, it’s K-Dot and Drake, standing in opposite circles — K-Dot is a known collaborator with Pusha T, who dissed Drake so hard back in 2016 that the beef ended with a press release (his verse revealing Drake’s son Adonis to the world, accusing Drake of abandoning his child). Metro and Future are right there beside K-Dot as well, and on this latest album, We Still Don’t Trust You, The Weeknd and A$AP Rocky joined the fight.

In the end, it’s Drake against Kendrick Lamar, rappers Future and A$AP Rocky, hip hop producer Metro Boomin and R&B singer The Weeknd. Drake is all alone —will he even put up a fight?

In an unconfirmed, leaked track called “Push Ups (Drop and Give Me 50),” Drake stands tall above the competition and, for once in the past decade, delivers. Never before would I have expected any competency from Drake, especially against his competition, but this leaked track takes K-Dot’s initial attack and swats it aside like a butterfly, no pimp. 

He first goes after Future — “I could never be nobody number-one fan / Your first number one, I had to put it in your hand” — referencing his feature on “Way 2 Sexy,” a record off of Drake’s Certified Lover Boy, which was Future’s first song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

He doesn’t take too long to go after his main opponent, though:

“Backstage, in my city, it was friend zone / You won't ever take no chain off of us / How the fuck you big steppin' with a size seven men's on? / This the bark with the bite, n***a, what's up? / I know my picture on the wall when y'all cook up / Extortion, baby, whole career you been shook up / 'Cause Top told you drop and give me 50 like some push-ups, huh / Your last one bricked, you really not on shit / They make excuses for you 'cause they hate to see me lit / Pull your contract 'cause we gotta see the split.”

The “size seven men’s” line is in reference to Lamar’s height. He’s relatively short compared to other rappers, including Drake. It’s a bit of a low blow, but the reference to Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, Lamar’s fourth studio album, is clever. The “bark with the bite” line is also a smart play on the dog imagery that Lamar uses in his verse, but Drake uses the image to criticize Kendrick’s lack of honesty in his disses, an issue which caused beef between them following the “Control” verse.

But the heavy hitter comes right after all these clever lines: Drake claims Lamar’s former record label Top Dawg Entertainment gave the Compton rapper a 50/50 split, which Drake alleges is (legal) extortion. This is also the meaning of the title, a double entendre, telling Lamar to “drop and give [him] fifty like some push-ups,” just as he supposedly gave Top Dawg Entertainment 50% of his profit. This claim has not been confirmed by any other sources, but it definitely seems as if Drake knows something we don’t.

My personal favorite line is a direct reference to Lamar’s “Mike Jack” line: “Big difference between Mike then and Mike now / What the fuck is this, a 20-v-1, n***a? / What's a prince to a king? He a son, n***a.” 

Even Metro is attacked, in the funniest way imaginable. Being a producer, Drake almost derogatorily tells Metro to “shut [his] ho-ass up and make some drums.”

The whole verse is a worthy return to Lamar, with the tightest flows seen from Drake since If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. One thing is clear — the war isn’t over. Drake decides on the next “big three” — SZA, Travis Scott and 21 Savage. They’ve gotten the call, now it’s time for them to respond.

Nothing like this has ever happened in 21st century hip hop. What exactly made the World Wars so catastrophic? Everyone got involved. And now, J. Cole’s retreat seems like the smartest decision imaginable.


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